Friday, November 17, 2006

Ballroom Dancing--An Easy Way to Fitness

Our column has been receiving queries about the health benefits of ballroom dancing and we are more than pleased to share with our dear readers that, indeed, even just 20 minutes of nonstop dancing increases the heart rate and produces benefits equal to low-impact aerobics.

There are actually two types of ballroom dancing: standard like the quick step, and waltz and the Latin like cha-cha, salsa and meringue. Therefore, whether you shimmy to the pulsating salsa beat or fall gracefully into a foxtrot, you are likely to burn 200-400 calories an hour. The better dancer you become and the longer you enjoy dancing, the more calories you burn.

Who can speak about the benefits of ballroom dancing better than a star athlete of the US Jerry Rice? "I lost 14 pounds dancing for eight weeks - and at 212 pounds, I was in good shape to begin with," he said. But I like the way my body changed. I stayed strong and yet became leaner, more flexible and fluid," he added. The three-time Super Bowl champ wished he had danced while playing for the San Francisco 49ers. "That added flexibility and awareness of my body would have helped prevent injuries," he explained.

An added bonus is the speed that comes with learning all that fancy footwork.
Of course, the pay-off is not purely physical. A 25-year study of nearly 500 senior citizens found that those who cut the rug regularly lowered their risk of mental decline related to aging. The researchers surmised that dancing increases blood flow to the brain, curbs feelings of loneliness and challenges the brain through learning new steps and routines.

Although women prefer dancing to traditional exercise, more guys are giving ballroom a fair shake. "Listen, I was out of my football uniform and definitely out of my comfort zone," stressed Rice. "But if I could do this, anyone can." And that's what makes hoofing it the perfect couples' workout. You don't have to be super-coordinated or even in tip-top shape. Both come with time and practice. And don't forget, it could be a lot of fun.

Like any workout, it is highly recommended that you need the proper gear. For men, that means no tight belts or ties. For women, heels and open-toed sandals are a no-no, unless you are a professional dancer. Flat comfortable shoes with leather soles and loose-fitting clothes are the way to go.

The following dance forms promise a head-to-toe workout. Swing is fast, furious and filled with flips, kicks and twirls that can burn 370 calories per hour. Tap offers the possibility of stomping away stress while slimming your thighs and improving circulation to the lower extremities. Hip-hop is at par with any step-aerobics class in terms of difficulty and the calories you will work through - about 400 an hour. And how about the more exotic belly dancing, which is all about thighs, abdomen and the buttocks - and of course, a women-only affair for now? The pace is slower and repetitive but you'll burn 300-400 calories an hour.

Whatever your choice, put on your dancing shoes and see you in the dance floor!

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Dance for the Rhythm of Your Heart

Ballroom dancing is as good an exercise as a full workout in the gym, researchers have found.

Half an hour on the dancefloor improves physical fitness as much as a session on the treadmill or exercise bike.

But ballroom dancing is more likely to attract people - especially the elderly - who would never dream of doing conventional cardiovascular training.

Dancing to other music - including salsa or rock 'n' roll - also has the same effect as long as it's done vigorously, said a heart specialist at the National Institute of Cardiology, Mexico City.

Dr Hermes Ilarraza, who organised the unconventional study, said it works for heart patients and could do wonders for people who may appear healthy but need to get more activity into their lives.

He said: 'The benefits of physical training in patients with heart disease is well established. "However, exercise compliance is often inadequate because patients find exercise boring. People like to dance so we thought it would be an attractive option.

"Some exercise is perceived as being difficult, but ballroom dancing can improve physical capacity in heart patients like traditional training such as indoor cycling or aerobics.
But it has the added benefits of being fun and social."

Over five weeks for five days a week, 40 heart disease patients were asked to take part in 30-minute routines of dancing or indoor cycling routines at a gym. Half the patients danced a routine designed by a professional dance teacher - who was also a patient with cardiac valve disease.

The rest of the patients exercised with a conventional indoor cycling programme, he told the World Congress of Cardiology in Barcelona.

All patients were supervised by doctors throughout and their blood pressure and symptoms were monitored. Doctors measured the physical fitness of the patients before and after exercise testing.

The dancers used a variety of dance music including salsa, rock and roll, and Cuban dance music, according to the patient's ability to exercise.

The study found both groups achieved a similar training effect.

Patients who danced increased their exercise capacity by about 28 per cent - meaning their heart and lung capacity had risen during the exercise regime.

Almost the same effect was found among the cycling patients who gained 31 per cent extra exercise capacity.

Dr Ilarraza said dance hall dancing could make a significant contribution to physical fitness in patients and others. He said: "It is important to highlight that exercise capacity is closely related with the hazard of death.

"In other words when an unfit person increases his physical capacity, the probability of death diminishes. So the message is you should be dancing for the rhythm of your heart."

Friday, November 10, 2006

If you hate to exercise, you've gotta read this!

Put down that barbell and head to the barre.

Ditch the sneakers and put on your swankiest pair of shoes.

Get off that elliptical trainer and get ready to do the electric slide.

You’re going dancing.

Regardless of your sex, generation or fitness level, hitting the dance floor is a great way to get moving.

“It’s better than going to the gym or taking up a new sport because it’s easy, it’s simple and it’s fun,” says Dr. Rita Beckford, a family physician and creator of the fitness video Home With Dr. B. She is medical director of the urgent-care center at the Twinsburg (Ohio ) Medical Center.

“Research over the past 10 to 15 years has found that exercise only works if it’s done consistently. So if people are happy and they enjoy what they’re doing, they tend to stick with it much longer than just picking up an activity for the benefit of exercise,” she says.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture considers dancing a moderate physical activity, like walking briskly, golfing (walking and carrying clubs ) and bicycling faster than 10 mph. The recommendation for general health is at least 30 minutes of this type of activity a day.

Wanda Deagen, who has been teaching ballroom dance since 1984, says even the most basic elements of dance can contribute to physical fitness.

“In ballroom dancing, it’s all about form, so you’re holding your body and your core so that you have your abdominals tucked under and you’re dancing with a nice long back,” Deagen says. “All of the things that are good for your body posture-wise, stretching-wise, those are all the basics in dance.”

Ballroom dancing, like most dance, is usually a low-impact exercise and provides the same kind of benefits as low-impact aerobics, Beckford says. Other disciplines, including hip-hop with its jumps and turns, are high-impact.

“Regardless of the type of dance, you’ll get benefits like an increase in flexibility, strength training and fat burning,” says Beckford, who lost 80 pounds with a program that included an hour of cardio dance five days a week.

“The more intense and highimpact, you’re probably going to build more muscles, you’ll burn more calories. But even with lowimpact dance, the benefits in your bones are still going to be there, the impact on reducing your blood pressure is there.”

Dance is good not only for the body, it’s good for the mind as well.

A study reported in the June 2003 New England Journal of Medicine found that elderly people who engaged in activities such as dancing lowered their risk for dementia.

About half the fitness clubs that are members of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association offer dance-based classes. One reason for the popularity of these classes is that dance doesn’t feel like work, says Elsa Williams, the group fitness coordinator at the Concord Athletic Club in San Antonio.

“With dancing, the perceived exertion is less than a boot-camp class where you might be working just as hard,” she explains. “It’s pleasurable, and the mood is completely different from a typical fitness class.”

There is also a social component to dancing that can be missing from other activities.

“You’re not only interacting with your partner, but you’re interacting with other dancers,” says Deagen. “Many people after a divorce or the death of a spouse will start dancing.”

And because it isn’t usually competitive, dance can be an enjoyable, healthy and creative outlet for children who aren’t interested in sports.