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Article by Sarah Hamilton-Walker | 18th January 2019

Is It Time To Put On Your Dancing Shoes?

It’s sociable and fun, and it is good for your health and your brain too – so now is the time to put on your dancing shoes!

Were you one of the millions of TV viewers who tuned in to watch the Grand Live Final of Strictly Come Dancing on 15th December? The show, which first aired in 2004, has boosted awareness of ballroom among all ages but has a special resonance with the generation who has happy memories of the foxtrot, waltz or tango from their youth.

Dark, dreary January is the ideal time to pull on your dancing shoes. It’s a great way to meet people, and many firm friendships – even romances – are made on the dance floor. You don’t even need to go with a partner – teachers usually rotate men and women so you get a chance to dance with everyone in the class. Most dance classes are extremely friendly and many teachers hold social events or clubs where you can practise your steps.

Village halls, community centres and studios are opening their doors and offering a range of classes to suit all tastes and abilities. You don’t have to be super-fit to enjoy ballroom or many other forms of dance as teachers welcome all ages, and there are even seated dance classes for those who have mobility restrictions.

A recent report compiled by BUPA on the health and wellbeing benefits of dance for older people highlighted a long list of positive effects, including improvements in strength, balance and gait, all of which help reduce the risk of falls. The research showed direct benefits in the treatment of conditions including arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and dementia, and even indicated that regular ballroom dancing could reduce the chances of developing dementia by as much as 76% – learning dance steps and routines help boost brainpower and memory.

Another study, on the effect of low-impact aerobic dance on 53 sedentary older women, found that after 12 weeks the group improved significantly on fitness measures, including cardio-respiratory endurance, strength, body agility, flexibility, body fat and balance.

Check out your local library, church and community centre notice boards for details of any local classes or groups looking for new members.

Top tips

• Don’t over-do it. If you’ve previously been inactive it’s best to start slowly to avoid the risk of injuring feet, ankles, knees or your back.
• Wear light, comfortable clothing – cotton is good as it disperses sweat. Choose sensible low-heeled shoes with a leather or composite sole. Trainers are difficult to dance in as they stick to the floor.
You should start each session with a short warm-up to get your circulation moving, with a cool-down and stretch at the end of the class.
• Stick at it. The first few weeks are always the most difficult but, even if you have two left feet, you’ll get the hang of it with a little time and practise.
• Shop around. If you’re not sure which dance is for you, try a few out.

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