By Diana Sunshine
When recently tasked with writing my six-word memoir, I came up with “First on the dance floor—always.” As someone who trained as a classical ballet dancer for 14 years, I never pass up an opportunity to dance, whether at a large celebration, alone at home, or to my daughter’s horror—with my husband during dinner at a restaurant featuring live entertainment. A few years back, a friend inspired me to take a weekly ballet class after a 25 year hiatus. After just a few weeks, the biggest difference I noticed: I felt happier.
I’m here to entice you to try a dance class. And it doesn’t have to be a ballet class. The possibilities are endless. From hip-hop and salsa to ballroom or even free-form ecstatic dance classes, the choice is yours. The best part: the multitude of physical and mental benefits. Don’t just take it from me. The New York Times penned Is Dancing the Kale of Exercise? Here are five science-backed benefits to keep your body moving to the music:
It makes you smarter: Dancing floods your brain with feel-good endorphins and requires mental agility as you master steps and synchronize them with music, and maybe even a dance partner. According to Richard Powers, a dance historian at Stanford University, “Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter…Dancing can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia… [and] also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.”
Improves strength, flexibility, and balance: Dance is the perfect combination of aerobic exercise and weight-bearing movements that keeps your body agile and flexible while boosting your strength. A 2020 study published in JAMA Network Open revealed that the more you dance, the stronger and more flexible you become, reducing your risk of falls by 37%.
Good for your heart: Researchers from two universities in Australia found that dancing is one of the best ways for older adults to shield themselves from cardiovascular disease. And it’s so much fun that you won’t even realize you’re working out. A win-win situation.
Increases social interaction: Dance classes are social. They’re a great way to make new friends and expand your social circles––which we all know is critical for longevity (See Big Retired Life post Cultivate Your Social Power).
Connects you to your youth: With dance, it’s not just the movement; it’s also about the connection with music. According to a 2021 Psychology Today article, “Music evokes powerful emotions that then bring back memories.” Simply hearing the music from your youth can transport you back in time.
Now that I’ve piqued your interest in dance, try a class that fits your style. Embarking on this new activity may be even more fun when you bring along a partner or a friend. Dance is a wonderful experience to be shared with others. So, put on your dancing shoes. You’ll be sure to have a blast!
Diana Sunshine is the founder of Big Retired Life. She’s a mission-driven, community builder with 20+ years experience in EdTech, Fundraising, and Non-Profit management.
Throughout the “Active You” section of this blog, we will introduce you to ideas on staying active and learning new things.