6 reasons to dance your way back to health

A group of older people dancing with hands held and arms raised. Close up of old man and old ladies holding hands aloft as part of the dance.

There are lots of ways dancing can improve your health, whatever your age or ability. Check out these 6 reasons to get into dancing.

1. It can improve your memory

The Bronx Aging Study followed 488 people aged 75 or older, for 21 years. It found that dancing was associated with a lower risk of dementia.

2. But you don’t have to memorise moves

One of the best things about dance is its creativity – you’re free to interpret moves in your own way. Some varieties, such as ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) barn dancing, have a ‘caller’ who shouts out moves to the crowd.

Other dances, zumba for example, have an instructor who stands at the front to demonstrate steps. It should be easy to find a class too – zumba is among the top five most popular exercise classes in the UK, and more than half of dance fitness teachers run zumba sessions.

3. You can do it in a wheelchair

Four wheelchair users perform a wheelchair dance in Trafalgar Square, London.The Wheelchair Dance Sport Association was set up in 2006 to get a greater range of dance lovers involved with the sport. Wheelchairs users can use an electric or manual wheelchair, and can dance with an able-bodied partner or with another wheelchair user.

The sport is even featured in the Paralympic Games.

4. It could protect you from heart disease

An Australian study, which pooled data from 48,000 British people, found that moderate intensity dancing is linked to a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Dancers were found to have a 46 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular death, compared with those who rarely or never danced. The study also suggested the social side of dancing, and the relaxation that comes with it, could be partly responsible for its health benefits.

5. You could learn about local history Copper plate of Maid Marian and Robin Hood being married by King Richard the second.

Playford dances and Scottish country dancing are just two of the many folk dancing varieties. In Staffordshire, the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance is an unusual performance where Maid Marian and her men cavort with 1,000-year-old deer horns.

Down in Padstow, the annual ’Obby ’Oss festival sees two colourful horses enact a dance battle on the streets.

Varieties of clog and step dancing are found across the UK. In newly industrialised Lancashire, workers wore wooden-soled clogs in the textile mills. Their percussive potential was incorporated into dances at social occasions.

6. You might even get to use a sword

Longsword dancing and Rapper dancing are two regional traditions, and may appeal to those who want something different. Dancers wield swords as they move across the floor. Some troupes now use wooden swords, but the moves are no less intricate and the dance ends with the swords intertwined in a star shape and held aloft to the audience. Most variations originated in north-east England.

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