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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine.

February 1997

Dancing into a Ripe Old Age -- Other Health Benefits

By Rick Allen, DC

Are you "dancing into a ripe old age" with strong bones? If not, check out the previous two articles on osteoporosis, "calcium robbers", and what you can do today to keep your bones strong. Check it out even if you are in your teens, because prevention, starting at any age, is the best medicine.

While I speak of "dancing into a ripe old age", these benefits apply no matter what your age! Nancy Dix, Managing Partner at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Tigard, Oregon emphasized that, "Dancing is ageless." In fact, she stated they don't have any "elderly" students, even though several are in their 80's!

Let's check out some other benefits of dancing. There are both physical and mental benefits to dancing. These include physical improvements in posture, strength, balance and agility, and increased social activity with an overall more confident, positive mental attitude.

Interviewing three of our local "ageless" dancers revealed similar stories:

Caroline Wilson started ballroom dancing in 1989, when, as a newly single in the Portland area, she wanted a substitution for the exercise she had previously on her ranch. She found more than dull exercise. She found the group lessons broadened her social contacts. They were fun! They improved her balance, coordination and agility. She found a "motivation to be strong and healthy." It was fun to dress up, to be appealing with a healthy appearance. Caroline also observed, "It is great to see people of all ages interacting on the dance floor." In a society that all too often segregates age groups, ballroom dance cuts across ages from teens to "ageless" octogenarians. Caroline has certainly caught the dancing "bug". She is active organizing and dancing at the monthly USABDA dances.

Does dancing really help your posture? Caroline excitedly observed that one of the gentlemen with whom she dances has gained three inches in height by improving his stooped over posture over the past year and a half. Looks like he was ahead of me - catching on to the changes I described in Instep last June 1996, before it was even published!

Dancing may be the answer to treating a bad back! Eunice Madsen was told to exercise for her back two years ago. But exercises at the gym were boring. Not so with dancing. She notices an increase in energy, improved balance and quicker coordination through her two years of dancing at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio. She's made lots of friends in the dance community. Just shy of her eightieth birthday, she recently performed a lovely showcase with her instructors. Yes, she enjoys the fun of dancing - social, exhibition and even competition. And her back is much better, thank you!

Ray Dalen loves the feeling of "floating" with a graceful partner. You'll find him dancing at Servetes and elsewhere dancing several times each week. Curvature of the spine doesn't stop him from swinging. Regular chiropractic care has helped improve his posture and give him more mobility to keep the ladies spinning. He says that he and those of his friends who started dancing in their later years "wished they'd started earlier."

Non-dancers, too, enjoy coming to the dances. Perhaps, like Jean Scheel, they can help organizing the dance or greeting people at the door. There is a positive sense of being useful, something that we all need, especially when there may be an "empty nest" with children and/or a spouse gone from home. Unlike bars, the socializing is safe. Social fun and laughter really is good for your health. Music is therapy: just tapping your feet to the beat is good for you!

Let's all keep dancing to a ripe old age!

Special request: Why do you dance? What are the benefits you perceive? Drop me a note or e-mail. I'd love to hear from you.

PS: As a Chiropractor focused on natural health, I see another benefit from the exercise and social contact of dancing as we age: less dependency on prescription medications. It is quite common to find an elderly patient on half dozen or more drugs which may negatively interact. Mental alertness is often impaired with these drugs. If you can keep healthy naturally, it stands to reason that you can avoid the need for prescription drugs and their inherent side effects.

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