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Dancing boosts health, relieves stress

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Posted: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 12:00 am

Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat? Summer's here and the time is right for dancing in the streets...This is an invitation across the nation, a chance for folks to meet. There'll be laughing, singing and music swinging, dancing in the street.

Dance is an outlet for emotional expression, stress reduction and creativity that benefits youth during stressful situations by channeling their energy positively and helping them bond with peers. Dance was also found to increase life satisfaction, according to a 2008 study in the American Journal of Health Education.

Jacqueline Bonsee, a senior modern and classical languages major, said she dances for fun and exercise at least once a week, preferably more.

"Everything about dancing is amazing. It releases endorphins, which makes me happy, keeps me active, and it's the best stress reliever because it makes me feel so free," she said. "Everybody dances in the car and in their rooms, but there is something so great about the experience of going out and dancing in public. I'm naturally a shy person, so it forces me to get out of my shell and is a great way to meet people."

Dancing may be a more viable alternative for those who view traditional exercise negatively.

"There should be a variety of physical activities available to people and not just what our culture currently thinks is important, such as football or jogging," said Brenda Goodwin, instructor in the health, physical education and recreation department. "Practically everyone listens to music, so dance is a great alternative to more traditional exercise."

Goodwin, who teaches many dance classes, said dance has been shown to stimulate brain function.

"Study after study has shown that children who are exposed to rhythm learn better; plus, we know movement increases the capacity to learn," she said. "Choreographed dance aids memory function since you have to remember the steps. Even social dance, when you don't have to remember combinations, works your brain because it wants to make your body move and change with the rhythm. There have also been studies showing that dancing can stall dementia in elderly people."

Goodwin said dancing raises your heart rate if you move for long enough and with at least a little effort.

"You also work muscles you might not normally use," she said. "I recently saw a video about why there were no fitness centers in the 1950s, and it shows a huge crowd of people swinging all over a dance floor and having a great time doing it. We need more of that now."

There are all sorts of other benefits that people don't think about in dance classes, said Ruth Barnes, associate professor of dance and dance program coordinator.

"You're working on yourself in a group, so you begin understanding spatial relationships between yourself and other people," she said. "You learn how much space you occupy and need without running into other people, which brings awareness of negotiating space and time that you might not have had before."

Barnes said dance is a language in a way.

"If it's not in your family, dance is often an alien language," she said. "That's a cultural reason people may not dance. Otherwise, people who don't dance might be insecure or not in touch with their bodies. Dancing helps with both of those (issues)."

Barnes suggested putting music on in your room, closing your eyes and dancing by yourself to loosen up if you aren't a dancer.

Goodwin said she has noticed people in her dance classes who are very hesitant about dance at first because they aren't used to it.

"Once we get going on it, you can see students take to it and really start enjoying it," she said. "Dance can be very freeing. I tell students to leave all their baggage outside the dancing and, for as long as they can spare, do something for them. Dance with wild abandonment because, really, who cares what you look like? Nobody, because they're worried about what they're doing."

The lyrics at the beginning of this story are from the song "Dancing in the Street" by Martha Reeves and The Vandellas.

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    Willard Wooton Posts: 1

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  • benjohnson posted at 10:19 pm on Tue, Feb 23, 2016.

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  • benjohnson posted at 9:59 pm on Sun, Nov 29, 2015.

    benjohnson Posts: 52

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  • Steven Blankenship posted at 6:47 am on Sat, Jan 31, 2015.

    Steven Blankenship Posts: 89

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  • Heather Whitley posted at 5:15 am on Thu, Jan 29, 2015.

    Heather Whitley Posts: 108

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  • David Poteet posted at 5:15 am on Tue, Dec 23, 2014.

    David Poteet Posts: 175

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  • antonovici posted at 7:19 am on Sat, Dec 20, 2014.

    antonovici Posts: 28

    It really depends of the person actually, there are many people who are feeling quite stressed when it comes to dancing in public or with persons that they don't know. There is an amazing site that shows the effects of alternative treatments on patients with diseases with no cure. It is important to have a good mindset when you are dealing with health problems.

  • Steven Blankenship posted at 5:51 am on Tue, Dec 16, 2014.

    Steven Blankenship Posts: 89

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  • Heather Whitley posted at 5:25 am on Tue, Dec 16, 2014.

    Heather Whitley Posts: 108

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  • David Poteet posted at 1:54 am on Tue, Nov 25, 2014.

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  • Hannah Mayers posted at 1:21 am on Wed, Sep 24, 2014.

    Hannah Mayers Posts: 1

    I'm not really a good dancer but I must agree that dancing gives me a feeling of relief. Just by simply moving to the beat of the music reduces the tension that I feel.

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  • negruvoda posted at 6:43 am on Wed, Aug 13, 2014.

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  • uprisedance posted at 10:55 pm on Wed, Feb 19, 2014.

    uprisedance Posts: 1

    Another amazing benefit is the sense of freedom that comes with dance.

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