This past Saturday, February 26, 2011, in more than 70 cities around the U.S., people danced at hospitals, at malls, in parks and in other public spaces -- "As If Their Life Depended On It." And, perhaps, it does. More than 200 hospitals in 95+ American cities are members of a coalition called Spirit of Women that every year, in February, hosts a Day of Dance for cardiovascular health in their community, demonstrating that better health can be fun and easier than we think. This year, a new dance was created in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services's Office on Women's Health, called "Make The Call. Don't Miss a Beat," that demonstrated the actual symptoms of heart attack and stroke in women. So quite literally, people could learn this dance to save their lives.
Listen closely, because this message is an important one: Good health is not always about depriving yourself and having to give up your favorite things. It can be about having fun. In fact, perhaps the most wonderful news in the proposed U.S. healthcare reform is the emphasis on prevention and pursuing better health through physical activity, both alone and with family and friends.
We know from countless research studies that social activity for people of all ages increases our sense of well-being, strengthens our immune system and even lowers our blood pressure. People who have suffered serious heart attacks are advised to consider social dancing as a way of rehabilitation to heath. According to Elliot M Antmann M.D., a heart specialist at Harvard Medical School and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, "dancing [has] helped heart failure patients to utilize their oxygen more effectively, thereby allowing them to exercise more without running out of breath."
Dance as if no one is watching. Dance as if your life depends on it. Because exercise, like dancing, increases your longevity. Dancing helps you to celebrate the creative strength of your body. It can help you manage your weight, bone mass and muscle. Dancing is romantic, and we know through research that intimacy with physical contact strengthens the heart, releases feel-good endorphins and even produces the hormone oxytocin that emotionally bonds one human to another. Dancing increases our flexibility and creativity.
Isn't it time for you stop worrying about what you look like on the dance floor and start dancing to stop worrying about your health?
What an incredible resource we have each and every day to improve our health and happiness. Turn up the music today and recall the classic Irving Berlin song: "Heaven...I'm in heaven. And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak. And I seem to find the happiness I seek, when we're out together dancing cheek to cheek."
**As with any form of physical exercise, please check with your health care provider before starting a dance program for heart health and happiness.