Get Up and Dance

I'm a bit of a dancing fool...

My passion started in childhood. Winters in Minnesota left me with little to do, so I chose to spend my time learning how to dance. That was, after all, what all the pretty girls were doing, too.

By the time I reached my senior year of college, I was teaching ballroom-dance classes. Today, you'll find me hitting the dance floor at every holiday party and wedding. A weekend doesn't slip by without me dancing at some point in time. There are so many ways to dance – whether it's in fitness-oriented classes like Zumba or Jazzercise that do it for you... or maybe you prefer more traditional dances like ballet or belly dancing. Or you could be the type that has a dance party on your own. Whatever you enjoy, chances are you could benefit from bringing a little more dancing into your life.

So how long has it been since you danced?

In some cultures, dancing is so central to life that it's considered necessary for good health. If you haven't been dancing, you might be considered ill. Angeles Arrien, an American anthropologist and author, once wrote...

In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

In our modern medical world, studies show that dancing is a great way to avoid ailments like osteoporosis, age-related muscle loss, Parkinson's disease, and cardiovascular disease.

A 2022 review published in Pain Medicine looked at dozens of studies on people suffering from chronic pain. The review found that people who danced 30 to 120 minutes, one to five times per week, suffered less from pain-related illnesses like fibromyalgia and generalized chronic pain. Some dancing styles mentioned included square dancing, belly dancing, and tango.

On average, 74% of folks felt some reduction in pain. The reviewers found that 60 to 150 minutes of moderate dancing each week helped relieve chronic pain. Folks who danced 150 minutes each week saw the most benefit.

Another studied from the University of Pennsylvania showed that line dancing for two hours once a week helped participants (whose ages ranged from 2 to 79 years old) achieve their target heart rate. And a study from Spain found that in a group of 65 sedentary women, aged 25 to 50 years old – taking just three Zumba classes per week highly improved their vitality, social functioning, mental health, general health, physical functioning, and their bodily pain.

Doc's Dance-Off Challenge

Over the next four weeks, I want you to try my dance-off challenge. It's going to start out easy and slowly get more challenging. Be prepared to dance for a small chunk of time each day. You can do these dance moves at any time, but I like to do them in the morning, since I think of them as exercise.

Before we get started, you'll need to choose some upbeat music that you like. Make or find a playlist. We're going to do a warmup and cooldown period before and after the dance, so you'll want a good bit of time covered on your playlist.

Begin by switching on some great tunes and stretching out your arms, legs, neck, torso, and back. You can get on the ground and stretch or sit on a chair. Stretching before and after you move your body will protect you from getting injured.

After about five minutes of stretching, get yourself set up to dance in a spacious location (where you won't knock into anything). Then pull up this YouTube link on your television or computer.

Every day, I want you to do one of these videos. It doesn't matter which one, it just matters that you're consistent. Aim to build this habit over a four-week period. Don't worry if you miss a day. Just start back up the next day.

These videos are from a group called SilverSneakers. The organization is all about promoting fitness in folks as they get older. These dance videos are not only safe, but they're affordable (free!) and fun, too.

And if you were thinking that dance shouldn't really count as a sport... tell me again after you've completed my challenge. So the next time someone asks you when was the last time you danced, I hope you can begin answering "today."

Let us know how you do with the challenge. And share how you like to get moving every day... [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
August 15, 2023