Dancing For Your Life!: Dancing Tips for Fun and Fitness
by Aija Paegle
Twinkle your toes! Stomp, clap, slide and glide. Twirl and swirl to the rhythm of the music. Dancing is a way to express ourselves but also an expression of life. We dance to celebrate at weddings or parties because dancing and moving makes us happy. Movement energizes our muscles, bones and nerves, and when you add music- wow! Now you even make your brain happy, stimulated by rhythms sounds and space.
As countless Zumba® fans know, dance as exercise can have multiple benefits beyond the stronger, leaner muscles it develops. For example:
- The frequent changes in direction while dancing make your body work to stay upright and in control, challenging your balance and proprioceptive system, which detects motion and the position of the body. Keeping your eyes on the horizon, as you do in many forms of dance, challenges your visual system as well.
- Synchronizing movement with musical rhythms enhances coordination, timing and agility. The amount of attention this requires by multiple systems may even help with pain management.
- Dancing can be enjoyed alone just like singing in the shower, but is often done with a group, offering a opportunity to be social – a basic human quality.
If it’s been a while since you’ve put on your dancing shoes, you may want to check out these things first:
- If you have been recently sick or injured, ask you primary care physician if you are fit enough to participate. Also consult with your physician before starting an exercise regimen.
- Speaking of shoes, have good, comfortable, supportive, non-slippery shoewear! Heels of reasonable height are okay, NOT the 6” platforms, please!
- Warm up and cool down properly. Just like any sport, dancing can challenge the strength and flexibility of your muscles, so prepare and take care of them. Take 5-15 minutes before you dance to warm up with stretches, walking or light movement exercises, and cool down with calf, hamstring and quad stretches immediately after you are done.
Aija Paegle is a physical therapist at the Integrative Care Center at Hospital for Special Surgery and former professional classical and modern dancer.
The Integrative Care Center at HSS offers a wide range of classes and educational workshops for promotion health and mind-body-spirit healing.