Dancing after heart problems

Old man with grey hair holds a ballroom dancing pose with an old lady with short grey hair.

Roger Polden and Judie Seymour talk about their love of dancing, and how a heart condition hasn't stopped Roger from dancing.

Roger Polden and his wife Ann love dancing. The couple are both 70 and help to run weekly sessions at the Westbury Folk Dance Club, as well as attending regular festivals.

Roger has been dancing for 30 years and Ann for 23 years. “We go to dances all over the country,” says Roger. “They are always very friendly. As for folk festivals, they’re very happy places. It’s like a family; everyone joins in. It’s a good way to make friends.”

Scottish country dancing

Dance teacher Judie Seymour has seen strong friendships form in her classes too. She’s been leading Scottish country dancing sessions in Weymouth for almost 10 years.

“I have watched friendships form in my class year on year,” says Judie. “It gives me great pleasure to think that no-one need be lonely while there’s a country dancing class somewhere near – and there usually is.”

As well as the social benefits, dancing can help to keep your heart healthy, maintain flexibility, and keep your weight under control.

No-one need be lonely while there’s a country dancing class somewhere near.

Judie Seymour

You can dance with a pacemaker

Because there are so many styles of dancing, and it can often be done at different levels, it’s suitable for many ages and abilities.

 “Our class is a mixture of ages, fitness levels and health,” says Judie. “A couple of our dancers have pacemakers fitted, which hasn’t stopped them dancing. One close friend had to have a triple heart bypass and she is back dancing. There’s a 93-year-old who dances at our local clubs at least twice a week.”

Dancing after a triple heart bypass

Similarly, Roger says his fellow folk dancers range from age 10 up to people in their 80s. Roger had to take a break from his hobby in 2008, following diagnosis and repair of an aortic aneurysm and subsequent valve replacement and triple heart bypass. “I went to the gym once a week for the cardiac rehab, but I much prefer the dance evenings - you’re there with people you know and they’re all so friendly,” he says. He didn’t get back to dancing straight after his surgery, but by 2010, he was back in action again. And as he explains, there are different styles and levels, so you can do what you feel able to.

“Sometimes we learn a special step, but we do a walking step most of the time. It can be similar to a ceilidh, only not quite so hectic – with more technique, style and composition.

“There are some very fast dances, but as soon as you know what they’re like, you don’t have to get up for those ones.

“There are also medium-fast dances and some slow ones. Of everything, I prefer the Playford style of folk dancing they did back in the 16th and 17th centuries. That is a more involved sort of dancing. You have to be very well-coordinated.

“But there’s no great pressure – as long as you enjoy yourself!"

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