Dance your HEART out!


Zumba full pic with glow smallOur cardiovascular systems are "complex arrangements of hydraulic, yet living, components" (Swain, 2000). Just as water must constantly flow at varied rates through a water system in a city, blood must also circulate rhythmically throughout our bodies to keep us vibrant and healthy.  The heart drives the entire system.  We get more efficient at this complex process through regular, moderate to vigorous stress on the system followed by lull or recovery periods. Finding something that both challenges and inspires us keeps our hearts rhythmically vibrant.

Two years ago President Obama declared February as American Heart Month. Even though we know we should spend at least 150 minutes a week doing something to challenge the heart, it can be daunting to find something to both stimulate and awaken your heart.    Some are fired up by sport,  many are moved by the "burn", others chase the calm and steady through yoga, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong.  Over the years, dancing has done it for me; it has become not only a matter of health, but a matter of the heart.   It allows me to move freely with variety of intensity and expression.  I have to admit, I didn't care for the leotards and tights as a child, but I am very grateful for the dance opportunities that turned me on to dance from a young age.  Dance has been a huge part of developing self-awareness, self-image, and self-gratitude throughout my life. There are several other reasons I love name a few:

*Dance is a vehicle for healing, communicating, and education.   Consider Universal Dances of Peace, Butoh, or Brain Dance.

*It can be done socially, competitively, or in the living room with your preferred device streaming your favorite tunes.

*Dancing involves very little gear.  I am not a fan of gear!  Dance requires very little.  Although shoes are important for some styles of dance, dancing with bare is not only fun, it improves balance and proprioreception.

* Want to improve your cardiovascular health, memory and decrease risk for dementia?  DANCE!  In a 21 year study of older adults, dance not only improved cardiovascular health, but was also protective against dementia (2003).

*Dance can improve clinical symptoms such as depression and anxiety.  It can also increase subjective well being, positive mood, and body image (Koch et. al, 2014).

So, what are you waiting for?  All it takes is a desire to move, tap, wiggle, shake, wobble, or groove.  Get up and DANCE your heart out!

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul” ― Martha Graham

Koch, S., Kunz, T., Lykou, S., Cruz, R. (2014). Effects of dance movement therapy and dance on health-related psychological outcomes: A meta-analysis. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 46-64.
Swain, D. (2000). The water-tower analogy of the cardiovascular system. Advanced Physiology Education, 43-50.
Verghese, J. et. al. (2003). Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly. JAMA, 2508-2516.

Human Heart Feb2016 ALPThis month, SAS Life is featuring heart-healthy posts in observance of National Heart Health Month.  Read more....


About Author

Rebecca Allen

Recreation and Fitness Program Coordinator Wellness

Rebecca E. Allen is passionate about helping others develop and nurture practices of well-being.   She earned her BS in Sociology and MA in Exercise and Sport Science and holds fitness certifications from ACE, AFAA,, IFTA, and Tai Chi for Health Institute.  She is a Medical Exercise Specialist and is registered with Yoga Alliance as a 500 RYT. Rebecca enjoys long walks in the woods with her husband, Chip Davis.

1 Comment

  1. I am so inspired by this article. I love to dance and use dance for my personal fitness activities. (I am also a professional singer and minister of music). Myrtle Manor on TLC is my favorite TV show also. Anyway - for dance I do the ZUMBA and also I make up my own what I call "cardiac funk". I would love to be an instructor at least for my church and then maybe one day to a fitness center like Planet Fitness but I guess I need a certification or class first. Truth be told to the master I used to be ashamed to tell people I like to do dance, see dance, and even go to a dance recital. But after reading this story I will let my personal light shine and dance publically because it may be a light unto the path of others. It may be a beacon of hope to the weary like this article has been bread crumbs to the forest that have pointed me home such as in the story of Hansel and Grettle. Thank you for these words of inspired and I am moved to incorporate more movement in to my own life and be proud of being not just the dancer but also the dance. My personal fitness goal is not to be the dancer but to be THE DANCE!

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