The Sunday Leader

Dancing For Health And Pleasure

By Dr Harold Gunatillake Health Writer

I realised the health benefits of dancing and socializing at a recent Valentine’s Ball organised by Sandra Vancuylenberg, in aid of the Breast Cancer Society, in Sydney.
For centuries western civilizations have lauded the benefits of dancing as a physical exercise burning calories from your body. Recently research has shown that dancing has its health benefits, such as stress reduction with increased serotonin levels and adrenalin, giving a sense of well-being. It has been shown that dancing also makes you smarter, stimulating one’s mind and helping couples to keep their minds active to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease. It also helps in balancing and cognitive acuity among the elderly. They accidentally fall less and with less chances of fracturing bones. Weight-bearing long bones seem to get stronger and denser with activities like dancing.
Mental acuity with dancing
The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect. Other activities had none.
They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. They learnt physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.
One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.  There was one important exception:  the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.
Just the way walking burns calories, dancing too burns calories, much more than a slow walk. After all dancing is a form of rhythmic quick walk to music, and without any effort you burn more calories than walking. Every session of dancing for 20 minutes you burn 25 calories, and at the end of the ball you would easily burn 150 calories.
To get the best health benefits whilst dancing drinking a glass or two of water after each session of dancing is beneficial. Drinking wines also makes you thirsty and more water should be consumed by end of the night.
Dancing improves your flexibility of skeletal muscles. Dancers must strive to achieve a full range of motion for all the major muscle groups. The greater the range of motion, the more muscles can flex and extend. Most forms of dance require dancers to perform moves that require bending and stretching, so dancers naturally become more flexible by simply dancing.
Dancing helps you to build your muscles, to give more strength. Many styles of dance, including jazz and ballet, require jumping and leaping high into the air. Jumping and leaping require tremendous strength of the major leg muscles. Ballroom dancing builds strength. Consider the muscle mass a male ballroom dancer develops by lifting his partner above his head!

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