Dancing for Better Health: Mind, Body & Spirit (cont.)

An 'Exciting' Option

No one is prescribing ballroom dancing, and Verghese's study doesn't claim dancing drove the results.

To get real proof, a study could assign one group of people to ballroom dancing, comparing them to inactive people.

So says Carl Cotman, PhD. He directs the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia at the University of California, Irvine.

"There aren't any experimental models in animals that would be equivalent to ballroom dancing, that's for sure," says Cotman. His rat studies have shown brain benefits from voluntary running.

If dance is aerobic enough, it could aid the brain, says Cotman. The social and mental aspects could also help.

"You've got togetherness, and...training the brain to do a new motor skill," says Cotman. "I think it's pretty exciting."

No one knows how much or what kind of exercise the brain needs, says Cotman. He'd like to see such studies done.

Meanwhile, "there's no evidence that it's going to hurt anything," says Cotman.

Check Your Ego at the Door

Here's some advice for beginners from New York dance therapist Jane Wilson Cathcart, LMSW, ADTR, CMA:

  • Look for a good teacher who emphasizes what you can do, not your limits.
  • Don't be a perfectionist about it.
  • Don't worry about your size. Dance is for everyone.
  • Get into the music, as well as the movement.

"Take in all the good feedback you're getting and give your inner judge a couple of dollars to go to the movies," says Cathcart.

"We are usually our own worst critic," says Cathcart. "Think of how many other times your critical judge has limited you from doing something."

New skills can bring confidence. At parties and social events, dancers may head to the dance floor feeling good about themselves without a martini's encouragement, Richards jokes.

"Lay the pathwork of positivity through it," says Cathcart. "The coolest dance begins with one step. The rest will follow."

Published June 27, 2005.

SOURCES: Catherine Cram, MS, exercise physiologist, Comprehensive Fitness Consulting. USDA, "MyPyramid.gov: What Is Physical Activity?" CDC: "Physical Activity: Recommendations." Ken Richards, spokesman, USA Dance. Janice Byer, group exercise director, The Courthouse Athletic Club. Joe Verghese, MD, assistant neurology professor, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Carl Cotman, PhD, director, Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia; professor of neurology and psychobiology, University of California, Irvine. Jane Wilson Cathcart, LMSW, ADTR, CMA, dance therapist.

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Last Editorial Review: 6/27/2005 10:33:01 PM