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098 PLANNING FOR LATER LIFE


indexmagazine.co.uk


dance! Let’s


It’s sociable and fun, and it is good for your health and your brain too – so now is the time to put on your dancing shoes!


ere you one of the millions of TV viewers who tuned in to watch the Grand Live Final of Strictly


Come Dancing on 15th December? The show, which first aired in 2004, has boosted awareness of ballroom among all ages but has a special resonance with the generation who has happy memories of the foxtrot, waltz or tango from their youth. Dark, dreary January is the ideal time to pull on your dancing shoes. It’s a great way to meet people, and many firm friendships – even romances – are made on the dance floor. You don’t even need to go with a partner – teachers usually rotate men and women so you get a chance to dance with everyone in the class. Most dance classes are extremely friendly and many teachers hold social events or clubs where you can practise your steps. Village halls, community centres and


studios are opening their doors and offering a range of classes to suit all tastes and abilities. You don’t have to be super-fit to enjoy ballroom or many other forms of dance as teachers welcome all ages, and there are even seated dance classes for those who have mobility restrictions. A recent report compiled by BUPA on the health and wellbeing benefits of dance for older people highlighted a long list of positive effects, including improvements in strength, balance and gait, all of which help reduce the risk of falls. The research showed direct benefits in the treatment of conditions including arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and dementia, and even indicated that regular ballroom dancing could reduce


the chances of developing dementia by as much as 76% – learning dance steps and routines help boost brainpower and memory.


Another study, on the effect of low-


impact aerobic dance on 53 sedentary older women, found that after 12 weeks the group improved significantly on fitness measures, including cardio-respiratory endurance, strength, body agility, flexibility, body fat and balance.


Check out your local library, church and community centre notice boards for details of any local classes or groups looking for new members.


Top tips


• Don’t over-do it. If you’ve previously been inactive it’s best to start slowly to avoid the risk of injuring feet, ankles, knees or your back. • Wear light, comfortable clothing – cotton is good as it disperses sweat. Choose sensible low-heeled shoes with a leather or composite sole. Trainers are difficult to dance in as they stick to the floor. • You should start each session with a short warm-up to get your circulation moving, with a cool-down and stretch at the end of the class. • Stick at it. The first few weeks are always the most difficult but, even if you have two left feet, you’ll get the hang of it with a little time and practise. • Shop around. If you’re not sure which dance is for you, try a few out.


Which type of dance could boost your health the most?


BALLROOM Waltz, tango, slow foxtrot and quickstep – there’s something for everyone. Helps improve heart and lung function and balance. Incredibly sociable. LATIN Though dances such as cha- cha, samba, rumba, paso doble and jive are forms of ballroom, they are generally faster and more energetic and are great for strengthening bones and improving flexibility. TANGO Its complicated, rhythmic steps and backwards and forwards movements are particularly good at training the brain and combating the effects of Parkinson’s disease, dementia


and stroke. SALSA Danced to anything from 120-140 beats a minute to a crazy 240-plus, it’s good for core stability because you have to pull in your stomach and lift from your ribs. TAP Those flaps, kicks and shuffle steps are brilliant for bones. BALLET & CONTEMPORARY DANCE Great for muscle tone and flexibility. They’re also mentally uplifting. JITTERBUG OR LINDY HOP Boosts cardiovascular and respiratory health.


DID YOU KNOW?


Five million Brits hit the dance floor regularly, and it is one of the most popular fitness activities among the over-55s.


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