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Fitness, both mental and physical, often begins with one’s state of mind. Mental acuity comes from mental exercise and if you’re ballroom dancing, you’re participating in living as opposed to engaging in sedentary activities like watching TV. Among mind stimulating activities, ballroom dancing is unique in that it also provides beneficial physical exercise.

Experts say it’s a good idea to engage in activities that stimulate your brain throughout your life. They also emphasize the need for exercise. Many people are getting the message. That’s one reason we see increasing numbers of people of all ages having the time of their lives on dance floors all over the country.



"Why Ballroom Dancing is Good for You:
Mentally and Physically"

A recent study at the Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University in Bronx showed that dancing reduced the risk of dementia, a brain disorder that includes Alzheimer's disease affecting 6 to 7 million Americans over the age of 60. The result of the research led by Dr. Joseph Verghese, assistant professor of neurology, was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in June 2003 (Vol. 348,pp 2508-16).

The research involved 469 men and women aged 75 and older, and the time span of 21 years that began in 1980. All participants were screened at the start to ensure that they were free of dementia. The researchers studied lifestyle of each participant to see if he or she engaged in some of the 6 cognitive activities (reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, playing musical instruments, taking part in group discussion, and playing board games) and 11 physical activities (dancing, numerous sports, housework, and baby-sitting).

They followed the activities of each for an average of 5.1 years. Among the participants were 130 who danced frequently (3 or 4 times a week), 83 who swam frequently, 26 who bicycled frequently, and 19 who played games frequently.

In the period of study, 124 participants developed dementia: 61 Alzheimer's disease, 30 vascular dementia, 25 mixed dementia, and 8 other forms of dementia.

The results revealed that frequent cognitive activities reduced the risk of dementia. There was no big surprise there, for other earlier studies indicated that much. The most surprising result was that, of all the physical activities, dancing was the only activity that reduced the risk of dementia.

The frequency of activities was also an important factor. For example, those who danced 4 times a week showed 76 percent less incidence of dementia than those who did only once a week or not at all. Naturally, the more you dance the greater the benefit you reap--as far as dementia is concerned.

What is so special about ballroom dancing? "Dance is not purely physical in many ways. It also requires a lot of mental effort," says Dr. Verghese. Dancers follow complex steps and figures. You have to think about them and remember them. Men have to think about what steps to do next and lead the women. And women have to follow the men, adapting to their movement and to the precise beat of the music. So, dancing keeps your feet and brains on the ball. Dancers do not just move on reflex. Dancing is a cognitive activity. It requires concentration and thus keeps your brain working harder and longer.

You cannot wear your brains out, scientists say. The more you use them the sharper they get. They are not like kitchen knives that get dull with use. I used to tell my students. "If you struggle to solve a physics problem, that is when your neurons multiply and grow." So, if you learn a new step or figure, and struggle to remember it, that will keep your brains stimulated and working longer.

If you don't use your brain, you will lose it. For example, if you sit in front of a TV all day, it will not help. A few years ago Dr. Robert Friedland reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that people who watch an excessive amount of TV in old age ran a greater risk of Alzheimer's disease. Watching TV or slumbering in front of it does not take much brainwork.

This does not mean the physical part of the dancing is unimportant. Maintaining physical activities becomes all the more important, as you get older.

Recent studies showed that physical and emotional benefits of dancing are countless. It is no secret that moderate exercise and sensible eating habits are the key to keeping you trim and fit. Besides being a fun social activity, dancing is also an ideal, low impact exercise and also a mild aerobic workout. It can reduce stress, tension, anxiety, and even depression. It increases your confidence in social and business situations, and sharpens your control, agility, speed, and balance. It also increases your flexibility and stamina, strengthens your bones and cardiovascular system, and helps you burn those excess calories.

Some studies indicated that a half hour of sustained dancing can burn as many as 200 to 400 calories. Twenty minutes of dancing can provide as much exercise as 20 minutes of swimming or biking. If you are not sure, try 20 minutes of jitterbug, samba, polka, quickstep or Viennese waltz.

The International Olympic Committee has recently recognized ballroom dancing as DanceSport, an athletic competitive sport. You may have noticed how athletic ballroom dance competitors look. "Ballroom dancing is a rigorous activity that uses large muscle groups," says Jackie Tally who teaches ballroom dancing at Samford University. "It's similar to ice skating, and no one would question the athletic ability of an ice skater. A ballroom dancer might be in better shape that a figure skater. A dancer does not get that free glide over the ice; he has to work every step of the way." Being a low impact activity, dancing is accessible to people of any age or fitness level-with more emphasis on having fun and less emphasis on going for the burn.

Do you remember how fit and trim Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse looked in those movie musicals? Did you know that Fred Astaire was 88 when he died in 1987. Gene Kelly was 84 when he passed away in 1996, and Cyd Charisse at 83 is still slim and beautiful.







April 2, 2004 – Wilmington, DE – The United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association (USABDA) invites your attention to the results of the Einstein Aging Study, summarized in the June 19, 2003 New England Journal of Medicine. The results of the study indicate that ballroom dancing helps prevent dementia.

In the study, a group of 469 men and women were studied between the years 1980 and 2001. Each member of the group gave details about how often they participated in six brain stimulating hobbies; reading, writing for pleasure, doing crosswords, playing musical instruments, taking part in group discussions and playing board games and 11 physical activities including: ballroom dancing, team sports, swimming and bicycling.

The research team developed a scale to assess frequency of activities each week. For each beneficial activity, the risk reduction was related to how often it was performed. For example, people who did crosswords four days a week had a 47% lower risk of dementia than people who only did puzzles once a week. During the course of the study, 124 people developed dementia, 61 developed Alzheimer's disease, 30 vascular dementia (strokes), 25-mixed dementia and eight had other types of dementia.

The researchers found that people who took part in intellectually stimulating hobbies such as reading, playing board games or instruments demonstrated a reduced risk of dementia. The researchers found no significant association between physical activities and the risk of dementia – except for ballroom dancing. The amazing 76% risk reduction from frequent participation in ballroom dancing by 130 avid dancers was the highest score of all hobbies and physical activities measured in the study.

Dr. Joe Verghese, assistant professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, New York, offered the theory that the requirements of ballroom dancing: remembering the steps, moving in precise time to the music and adapting to the movements of one's partner – are mentally demanding exercises. Therefore ballroom dancing offers both physical and mental stimulation.

Dr. Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said “this research strengthens the use-it-or-lose-it school of thought that states that complex brain activity can build up a brain reserve that may protect people from Alzheimer’s disease in later life.” She warned that “people also need to remain physically active and that this research should not be taken as a recommendation to concentrate on cerebral exercise only.” 




For Patients with Parkinson: It Takes Two to Tango
September 15, 2014
 | Parkinson disease By Alisa G. Woods, PhD For Patients With Parkinson:
It Takes Two to Tango


Tango may be not only a vibrant dance of passion but also a therapeutic one for patients with Parkinson disease (PD), a research group at the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis has found. Dr Gammon Earhart, a Professor of Physical Therapy at the school, thinks this is because “many of the movements of the dance are movements that people with Parkinson disease have problems with.” Apparently this could be because tango is based on a walking pattern as well as specific turning motions. Practicing these motions seems to halt and improve PD motor problems and also may have cognitive benefits. Dr Earhart and a colleague published a recent study that examines the 2-year effects of an Argentine tango class on motor symptoms in patients with PD.1 This pilot study, a follow-up to a larger scale 1-year study,2 is one of the longest-duration investigations to study exercise effects on PD. In the 12-month study, 62 participants were randomly assigned to twice weekly, community-based Argentine tango class or a control group that underwent no intervention. PD motor effects were assessed when patients were not receiving their medication. Overall, the group that danced tango improved. The control group showed little change on most measurements, which included 3 scales of the Movement Disorders Society-Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale and other standard tests. Dr Earhart remarked, “Motor symptoms were ameliorated quite a bit. We may actually be modifying the trajectory of the motor decline.” The 2-year follow-up pilot study included 5 tango participants and 5 controls. Tango dancing in patients with PD was associated with improvements in motor symptoms, activities of daily living, and balance. Decline in some of these measurements occurred in the control group. The research group has done several other studies comparing various types of dance, such as fox trot and modern dance, but tango seems to provide the greatest therapeutic boost to patients with PD.

Of note, the dance class could have other effects in addition to improving movement, including providing socialization. Dr Earhart mentioned that many participants found that the dance class provided a forum for interacting with their partners at the same level, in contrast to having a traditional caregiver-patient relationship. Dr Earhart plans to further examine the effects of tango using brain imaging in a large-scale trial. When asked if she’d recommended tango specifically to patients with PD, Dr Earhart replied, “The real key is being as active as possible and maintaining that over time and ideally having more than one activity.”





If you want to grow old gracefully, keeping yourself intellectually stimulated and physically active Ballroom dancing can help. Ballroom and Salsa dancing may help you to be both intellectually stimulated and physically active. Subjects with scores in the highest third on the cognitive-activity scale had a risk of dementia that was 63 percent lower than that among subjects in the lowest third. IDS and WSF President Isaac Altman, said, “this emphasizes the importance of engaging in a regular program of Ballroom and Salsa dancing and quantifies what may be the best long-term side benefit enjoyed by dancers. We dancers have always known about the mental, as well as physical, benefits of dance. It is gratifying that the scientific community, however cautiously, is beginning to join our team. Hopefully everyone engaged in the instruction of Ballroom and Salsa dancing will educate his or her students on this priceless benefit. Our challenge now is to educate the public as well.”


Here is a partial list of some Miami doctors who not only recommend Ballroom Dancing but take Ballroom dance lessons themselves.

Dr. Stephen Blythe
Dr. Donna Blythe
Dr. Jaime Sepulveda
Dr. Ivan Hernandez
Dr. Maria Hernandez
Dr. Robert Hernandez
Dr. Jaime Llobet

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