Our 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 dance...to name a few:
*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.
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