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The benefits of dance for older people

We all know how wonderful dancing can make us feel, whether we’re shaking our stuff at the local nightclub or jiggling along to the radio in the kitchen. It releases endorphins, gives you a great work out and always brings a smile to your face too. But dance is not just for the young ones.

The older generation were brought up on dance. With no Tinder or to help them find a partner, being a great dancer was the best way to ensure you got a date with the hottest guy or gal in town, and many older adults were very talented movers in their day.

Although they might not remember the steps to the tango, or be able to foxtrot as fast as they used to, that doesn’t mean older people shouldn’t be encouraged to move and groove their cares away. Here are just a few of the proven benefits dance can have for older people:

  • Strength
    Time and again, dance has proven to be one of the best ways to maintain and improve muscle strength as we age, combatting the typical muscle loss that comes with age. Dance can also improve balance and coordination, making people less likely to fall and injure themselves too.
  • Pain relief
    A study in the USA found that people who relied upon pain medicines to cope with knee and hip discomfort were actually able to reduce the amount of medication they took as a result of a dance programme. The programme lasted 12 weeks, and by the end of the period, participants were able, on average, to reduce their pain relief medicine by over a third (39 per cent).
  • Dementia defence
    It’s well known that exercise can help reduce the risk of developing dementia, but dance appears to be one of the best forms of exercise for this. Experts believe that the combination of cardiovascular exercise and split-second decision-making challenges the neural network, causing it to forge new pathways and thereby stave off mental decline.
  • Social connections
    Dancing can be done alone, but it’s much more fun in a group. People who take up line dancing classes, Zumba, or any other form of group dance activity will make new friends and become more involved in their local communities. These social connections are increasingly important as we age, and can help us to stay supported and included also.
  • Mood boosting
    Numerous studies have proven that dance can be beneficial for staving off depression and anxiety. Healthy, mood boosting endorphins will be released with any type of exercise, but because dance is a social activity too, this is augmented to give dancers a really positive boost following their session.

One of the greatest things about dance is that anyone can join in. We might not all be able to pirouette like Darcey Bussell, but there is a dance for everyone and everyone is welcome to dance. Parkinson’s, dementia, cancer, heart disease, arthritis… none of these issues will stop anyone from dancing, so if you’ve got an older person in your life who could benefit from busting a move, grab them by the hand and dance!

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