Dance as Therapy for Seniors
Dance as Therapy for Seniors
Dancing is one of the most fun ways to get exercise, no matter your age. As we get older, we may not be getting around as well as we used to, but we can still enjoy moving our bodies to our favorite music. Not only is dancing great for your health, but taking dancing classes keeps you socially active as well as physically. Even those confined to motorized scooters or chairs can do modified versions of dances. And there have been studies that have shown dancing can help improve motor skills, balance, range of motion, pain from conditions such as osteoporosis, and overall general health and mood. Some dances, like the tango, have even had positive impact on Parkinson’s patients. Everyone feels great after they’ve been dancing, even for just a few minutes.
There are many different kinds of dances that are simple and easy enough to learn in a short amount of time. You don’t have to be Fred Astaire, you just need to have the right attitude. After that, the practice will be aided by your muscle memory, and every subsequent class will get easier and more enjoyable. Check your local community centers or dance studios to see if they have a calendar you can search online to choose an introductory lesson. There are so many different kinds of dances to learn, but here are a few of the most popular dance classes among seniors:
- ZUMBA: a cardio workout that’s disguised as a dance party. Instead of boring treadmill walking, dance up a sweat while enjoying a group session with an instructor. There are many different kind of classes, from the classic, fast-paced original Zumba classes to low-impact and water-based Zumba classes. Zumba can accommodate all fitness levels and abilities. There are even Zumba home DVDs and video games for Wii Fit that you can do at home.
- SQUARE DANCING: what could be easier than following steps that someone is calling out to you? This country style of dance can be fast moving, so it’s a good cardio workout. One special thing about square dancing is that those who participate create a tight-knit community. There are clubs all over the country that meet weekly for fun and dancing. That means, once you learn how to square dance, the community will likely keep you moving. Having an instant social circle is a great motivator to join in.
- BALLROOM DANCING: From the Cha Cha to the Samba to the Foxtrot, Ballroom Dancing can whisk you away to a simpler time, when people still danced in pairs and looked into each other’s eyes. It’s a workout you can do while dressed in your finest (sensible) shoes.
- BALLET/BARRE: These classes take some of the moves mastered by ballet dancers and apply them to a workout, often modified to use the barre for balance and leverage. These classes don’t have a lot of jumping or bouncing. Instead, they focus on controlled movements to tone muscle and build flexibility. These classes may be a good choice for those who enjoy yoga or Pilates and are looking to maintain their balance and flexibility.
- TANGO: Tango is quickly becoming one of the most popular dances in the United States. Based on the non-verbal connection created between the dancers via eye contact and touch, tango is an ideal dance for those suffering from Parkinson’s or other diseases that have impacted speech and other fine motor skills. Tango is about romance and following a strong leader, and the combination of motion, balance, and physical contact can do wonders for your mood as well as your physical health.
A few last tips before you head out on to the dance floor: always be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, as dancing certainly can get the heart rate up. Non-slip shoes are essential and should be worn to every class. Dress appropriately but comfortably. And most of all, remember that no one is judging your technique. You’re there to have fun and spend time being social.