Would seniors in Plainfield rather do sit-ups or dance?

Dancing at the Timbers of Shorewood“There are short-cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.” ~Vicki Baum.

Ms. Baum is right. Dancing also can be a short-cut to health – both physically and mentally. According to Brain Fitness For Seniors.com, dancing is a boon to health because it stimulates different areas of the brain. How? Well, it often requires learning new steps, and it keeps seniors connected to others. It involves balance, coordination, listening, rhythm, motion, emotions, and physical touch.

Present day seniors grew up dancing. There were grand, lavish ballrooms, and people in cities took the streetcars to dance the night away. Ballroom dancing was a popular choice for a date. Big Band orchestras under the batons of Tommy Dorsey or Harry James toured the country playing in these wonderful ballrooms.

Today’s seniors are still dancing. Seniors’ dances are everywhere, and there are even exercise classes of “seated” dancing. If an entertainer performs the “old favorites” at a senior center or assisted living community, the audience instantly responds with toe-tapping and probably a rush of memories.

Health-wise, a dance routine for older adults can improve fitness in a low-impact way. More specifically, the physical benefits of dance from Ehow.com include:

  • Improves cardiovascular fitness – Even light dancing will increase the heart rate and give the heart a good workout.
  • Builds muscles – Through dance, seniors work their muscles and help to combat the effects of age.
  • Improves social outlook – By joining a dance class—no matter what type of dance—they can enjoy the company of being with other dancers.
  • Increases balance and control – The improved balance that comes from dancing helps prevent slips and falls.
  • Increases bone mass – Both men and women begin to lose bone mass as they age, leading to more broken bones when they fall.
  • Improves flexibility – A good dance workout will include stretching time which can help senior citizens increase flexibility and reduce muscle aches.

Again, from Brain Fitness For Seniors.com, by improving the social interactivity of seniors, dancing increases social harmony, understanding and tolerance in the community which is important because aging requires people of sometimes diverse backgrounds to live closer together in retirement homes and communities.

Music and rhythm have measurable effects on the brain and are the subject of multiple studies of brain-fitness benefits in both the young and old. Listening to music itself can have clear effects on the brain, stimulating different areas, changing brainwave patterns, and relieving stress.

Some believe that just watching dance stimulates the brain – mental stimulation that may be almost as powerful as performing the activity first hand. Even seniors who are too physically restricted to move freely can still participate and gain brain fitness benefits from social dance groups.

In summary, the lyrics of country music star Lee Ann Womack’s signature song say it all:

“I hope you still feel small when you stand behind the ocean.
I hope whenever one door closes, another opens.
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…
I Hope You Dance.”

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