- Published on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 00:00
- Written by Leslie Friedman
Photo By: Town Crier File Photo
Leslie Friedman, a lifelong dancer and choreographer, extols the health benefits of dance, an activity for all ages. Friedman points to research that claims dancing helps combat Alzheimer’s disease.
Here’s a terrible secret: dance is good for you. Why is that terrible? Because there’s a danger that knowing it’s so healthful will keep people from doing it. Look at people’s attitudes toward broccoli and spinach.
Dance in its many varieties is good for you in myriad ways. It stimulates your respiratory system, improves your circulation and increases your flexibility, strength and balance. Enjoyable dance activities can do much physically and mentally.
It’s not necessary to dance until you are panting like a marathon runner. It’s not necessary to be as flexible as a ballerina or as strong as a male danseur.
In dance, all the elements add up as you do it. You are building strength as you develop cardio and respiratory systems. All systems are go, functioning together simultaneously.
That’s the difference in dancing – it’s full body, full mind coordinated. The dancer is involved in the music, pattern of steps and exhilaration of movement, so there is little awareness of effort.
Dance makes one more aware of physical actions at exactly the same time that one is most unself-conscious. That extraordinary state of being is a reason to keep doing it.
The kind of dance that works best for health is the kind the dancer will keep doing: ballet, hip-hop, Indian, modern, salsa. The question is, does it make the participant eager for the next opportunity to dance?
Dance is an activity one can do at any age. The dances one enjoys at 20 may still be enjoyed at 60, or one can always branch out into something new. Tap or ballroom can help propel you through the decades and provides so much pleasure along the way.
Research indicates that one does not have to exercise to exhaustion or believe in “no pain, no gain.” Dance rewards us with the joys of breathing deeply and expressing our feelings. Recent research suggests that dancing is one of the better ways to combat Alzheimer’s disease. The mind-body union in dance is the prize.
Every 2-year-old I’ve met spontaneously bursts into rhythmic dancing at the sound of music. A barrage of negative messages hits us all too early, turning off that inner Astaire. Our breathing, our heartbeats go in perfect rhythm without our direction.
Forget how you look in spandex. Dance for the fun of it – your body and brain will thank you.