Dancing for the health of it

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A few years ago I had the pleasure of hearing my friend Cris Linnares speak about her journey back to health through movement, especially dancing. The warm-blooded Brazilian native described her first winter in North Dakota, the birth of her daughter, subsequent baby blues and her father’s passing as “the perfect storm.”

 She was down, really down, but she raised her spirits and her body by tuning into music and dancing. Ultimately, she was dancing with joy, despite her new country, the fatigue of motherhood and her family’s loss.

I’d never really thought of dance as a portal to health. Instead it reminded me of awkward dances in the old gym of Shanley High, and later, clubs and bars, which were never really my scene.

I’d always admired friends who took ballet or were on the dance team, but once again, it wasn’t a connection for me.

But now, I hear the sounds of Zumba and XaBeat on a daily basis, as the bass passes through the Catalyst building. Eager dancers fill the studios of Health Pros and GroupFit in our lower level. I’ve seen lives and bodies transformed. My son and I popped in for a few classes, and he wondered about the bedazzled scarves dancers wore around their hips, asking why they wore jingle bells on their bottoms?

My patients will comment on the music, and I tell them about the fitness center and studio, “What a happy way to exercise!” Dancing gives a total body workout seems to leave us energized and enthused, rather than bored and exhausted.

Dancing has a wide range of physical and mental benefits:

• Improved cardiopulmonary endurance

• Helps weight management

• Builds bone density

• Improves strength, muscle tone, coordination and flexibility

• Improves balance

• Increases confidence and self-esteem

• Improves social skills

In addition to Zumba and XaBeat, locally you can find belly dancing, ballroom, hip-hop, barre/ballet, NIA and even pole-dancing.

One of my favorite patients competes nationally in ballroom dancing with her husband. I’ve always loved watching “Dancing with Stars,” so it’s fun and inspiring to see photos of her all dressed up for dancing.

I have a friend in California who attends a Sunday service called Sweat Your Prayers, based on the 5 Rhythms work of Gabrielle Roth. They dance through five universal rhythms—flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness.  She feels spiritually connected through dancing and praying.

You don’t see many disco balls these days, but you’ll find one in my friend Hope’s house. She installed it in her kids large play area and they have rocking dance parties, especially during the winter months when the kids need more indoor options for exercise.

My son also enjoys spontaneous dance parties. Certain songs move him to break-dancing on the family room floor. He flaunts similar moves at wedding dances.

And never underestimate just cranking up your own tunes in the living room and doing your own dance. Nobody is watching. Enjoy!

~Dr. Sue

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