LIVING HEALTHY – DR. ROBIN MILLER-When I was in junior high school, my mother signed me up for ballroom dance classes.  The classes took place in the school gym once a week.  The girls had to wear dresses and white gloves and the boys had to wear dress up clothes.  I remember feeling like I was being tortured.  That was my impression of ballroom dance until several years ago when I tried it again.

Not only do I enjoy it, I found that it makes me really happy.  Since I have been dancing I feel stronger, more flexible, and I have great endurance and energy. No matter what is going on in my life, after I go dancing I feel good.

I have a patient who is crazy about tennis.  I asked her what it is about tennis that she likes so much.  She said that it is all about that focus on that little yellow ball.  When she is playing, that is the only thing that matters.  That is how I feel about the ballroom. For the moments of the dance I am in 100%.

What does ballroom dancing do physically? It boosts endorphins; those feel good hormones we keep hearing about. It also builds muscles.  It strengthens legs muscles but also requires core strength. It is great aerobic exercise that builds endurance.

Probably the best benefit is what it does for the brain.  Many of us are looking at ways to keep our minds intact and prevent dementia.  Partner dancing is the best way to do that. A 21 year long study of seniors over 75 found that bicycling, swimming and playing golf did nothing for preventing dementia.  However, partner dancing done frequently decreased the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 76%. Partner dance included waltz, Latin dances such as tango and salsa and swing.

I have a fondness for Argentine tango and West Coast Swing. Both dances are fun, challenging, allow for continued improvement (an understatement) and they have helped my brain to become sharper while helping me to be happy.


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