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You should be dancing, yeah.

What you doin’ on your back, aah?

You should be dancing, yeah

For the record, I was only a toddler when this Bee Gee favorite hit #1 for a couple of months in 1976, and I’ve never been much of a dancer. But as an exercise physiologist , I can confirm that when it comes to good exercise for your heart and mind, the Bee Gees said it best.

People who dance frequently have a 75 percent lower chance of dementia

In fact, in a decade-long study of nearly 48,400 people over the age of 40, Australian researchers concluded that regularly dancing at “moderate intensity” cut your chances of dying of cardiovascular disease by 46 percent. The study, published in June, 2016 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, concluded that dancing beat fast-walking, which cut those chances by 33 percent.

Here are three other reasons why dancing is great exercise.

1.Dancing Is Interval Training

You don’t have to use a machine or run on a track to get a workout. You’re working out if you engage different muscle groups and become slightly out of breath and a bit sweaty. So keep up with a rock and roll, swing, or fiddle beat, or a Viennese waltz, and you’ll be moving fast, often in repeated short bursts that will feel just like an interval workout.

2. Dancing is Brain Food

To ward off dementia you might guess that reading and doing crossword puzzles would be most effective. But in a landmark New England Journal of Medicine study of nearly 500 people recruited between the ages of 75 and 85, dancing emerged as the best choice. People who danced frequently had a 75 percent lower chance of dementia, compared to people who didn’t participate in any of the leisure time activities studied. Filling in crossword puzzles (at least four days a week) cut your chances by 47 percent and reading 35 percent.

Why would dancing beat seemingly more brainy activities?  Richard Powers, a dance instructor at Stanford University observes that the seniors in this study were probably doing foxtrot, waltz, swing, and maybe some rumba and cha cha. He points out that this kind of freestyle dancing “requires a lot of split-second decision-making,” both for men and women. You’re moving and thinking—on your feet, so to speak.

To stay ever-young, I recommend swing. Check out this video of finalists in a swing competition. How cool is that?

Remember, there’s no reason you can’t do puzzles and dance, though probably not at the same time.

3. Dancing Creates Social Connection

Connect with a regular partner or with a group of people you know —you’ll be relieving stress while bonding. At Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, we’ve learned that giving and receiving love and support is essential for good health. If you don’t have a partner or group to go out with, take a class. Powers says dance classes help you to learn something new and give you tools to be creative on the floor.

Many gyms now offer classes in Nia, which combines dance and martial arts to give you an hour or so of cardio, muscle-building, and balance practice. Zumba classes mix it up to Latin and World rhythms. Following the teacher’s moves will challenge your concentration and coordination, though freestyle might be better brain food.

Men—you’ll probably be out-numbered but I’m guessing the ladies will be friendly!

How can you build dance into your life?

Contributed by

Phil Hardesty
Exercise Physiologist

Have a healthy, happy and fit week!!

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