We have a special guest post this week from Ms. Beth Knoll, US National Professional Ballroom Champion and NDCA & WDC adjudicator.
For centuries, people have searched for the magic of youth. From Herodotus to Ponce de Leon, from Alexander the Great to modern miracles of medicine and cosmetics, great literature and travels and discoveries have traced our search for the vigor and dynamic energy of our early years.
Is there really, TRULY a “Fountain of Youth?”
Pretty much, this is a metaphor for anything that prolongs longevity. If there were really, truly a fountain/pill/elixir, we’d all be young and in pursuit of something else…maybe age!
But although we might search for “age” and the wisdom and life experiences that age brings, we certainly wouldn’t be searching for “aging.”
In my ongoing—and seemingly endless pursuit—of a degree in Gerontology (the sociological study of aging), I’ve learned some really valuable lessons about what is termed “successful aging.” These lessons have brought me back to YOU, our ballroom dance community.
What if you could look and feel younger, have more energy and stamina, and live a longer more healthful life?
The magic answer: BALLROOM DANCING!!!
The data is out there.
There are many studies about how dance benefits Parkinson’s patients; how music stimulates old memories, may help create new ones and even manage pain without drugs;
how exercise increases oxygen and blood flowing to the brain, decreases stress, helps manage weight.
Ballroom dancing combines all these benefits, and more, by combining several things Gerontologists commonly regard as essential to “successful aging.”
1. Exercise and Diet
Although termed “moderate” by medical experts, ballroom dancing can
- get your heart rate up
- make you sweat
- strengthen muscles
- increase blood and oxygen to the brain and heart
- help you tone up and/or lose weight
- and much more.
You may think your teacher is a taskmaster, but s/he is really just doing a good job. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise a day is shown to be the bare minimum of what you should do to work toward a better—and longer—healthy life.
Nearly always connected with exercise, what happens when we “get hooked” on ballroom dancing (especially if we compete) is we want to be healthier. We eat better, drink more water, and generally treat our bodies more respectfully.
What I find is a powerful motivation tool is that the better the student is, the better reflection on the teacher! Your professional expects a lot out of him/herself, therefore YOU expect a lot out of YOURself.
2. Mental/Cognitive Activity
Footwork, hip action, routine, timing, posture, poise, lead/follow, smile, swing/flight, breathe…this list is endless! It takes a lot to learn to dance, and intellectual understanding of what we do is crucial.
By learning a new step/dance, you’ve woken up those neurons in your brain, and fired up those synapses! Now add in music, and your brain will actually DANCE.
Interesting to note: using opposite sides of your body at the same time uses both sides of your brain. An action that is used during chair exercise sessions for elders with dementia is to put your right hand on your left shoulder, then extend the arm all the way out to your right side while tracking your hand with your eyes. (Repeat several times, then switch sides.)
This exercise stimulates the brain as well as stretching the body. So work on your CBM, CBMP and arm styling! They’ll make you smarter and keep your brain young.
3. Positive Attitude, Resilience, Stress Reduction
Hmm…do these sound familiar? How many times have our teachers talked to us about staying cheerful and not being negative?
Bouncing back after a bad performance or competition?
Having more FUN because if you are uptight and stressed, you don’t dance as well?
All are important factors in discovering our own “Fountain of Youth.”
4. Social Engagement
One of the most powerful aspects of “successful aging” is staying involved in social circles, and it’s even better if you can make new friends.
Well, THIS plays right into ballroom dancing’s hands, doesn’t it?
Going to studio parties, going to your lessons at times when a lot of other people are also having lessons, going to dance competitions…all of these things help enlarge and enrich our social circles.
The experts say that working in a group, learning a new skill and/or mentoring younger individuals is a key to successful aging.
We do that! We make friends, we support younger/beginning dancers, we laugh and talk and cry together. What could be better?
Although this is not officially part of medical theories about “successful aging,” studies have shown the power of music to simulate the brain, reignite memories, make learning new things possible, even manage pain without drugs!
How do you feel when you hear your favorite Cha Cha on the radio? Don’t you stop everything and do a little dance?
Think about what music makes you happy, conjures up good memories or has some positive significance to you. This music, (in the industry it’s called “autobiographically important,”) is part of what will keep your brain active and young. Make your playlist now!
Did you know what you were in for when you signed up for your very first introductory lesson? I sure didn’t.
What we have all happily discovered could completely dismantle the industry of “the fountain of youth,” which spends billions of dollars on marketing anti-aging creams and lotions and serums and diets and drinks and…and…and…the list is endless.
And it’s all right there, in the studio, with your teacher as your own personal “Ponce de Leon.” So get dancing, and stay young!