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Sure you love watching the celebrities on "Dancing With The Stars," but do you have what it takes to learn the waltz, salsa, and ballroom dance yourself? Learning to dance can be fun and is a great workout for your body and brain.

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Dance Your Way to Better Health

Sure you love watching the celebrities on "Dancing With The Stars," but do you have what it takes to learn the waltz, salsa, and ballroom dance yourself? Learning to dance can be fun and is a great workout for your body and brain.

Dear Savvy Senior,

Spurred on by the television program "Dancing with the Stars," my husband and I are looking for some different resources that teach dancing. What can you tell us? —Recently Retired

Dear Recently,

It’s amazing how "Dancing with the Stars" has lit a fire under the feet of millions of Americans – which is a good thing. Dancing is a great workout for your body and brain, not to mention a whole lot of fun. Here’s what you should know and some resources to help you get started.

Lot’s of Options

Whether your groove is ballroom, square, swing, line, tap, clogging, jazz or even belly, dancing is a great activity for helping older adults get and stay in shape. There’s even chair dancing for seniors with physical limitations. On average, a 150-pound adult can burn about 150 calories doing 30 minutes of moderate social dancing. And people who dance are more likely to stick with it than they are other types of exercises.

Healthy Results

Like other moderate, low-impact activities, such as brisk walking, cycling or aerobics, dancing can help increase stamina and flexibility, improve balance and strengthen muscles. It can also help ward off illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis and depression, but that’s not all. Research shows that social dancing can also boost brain power, sharpen memory skills and even reduce the risks of developing dementia. The mental benefits are attained because dancers must learn and remember steps and sequences, utilizing thinking and retention skills.

Learn to Dance

To find dance classes near you call your local dance studios, dance clubs, health clubs, universities or community recreation centers. Some YMCAs, senior centers, churches, or synagogues may offer group dance classes too. You can also search online at sites like www.accessdance.com, which offers a network of dance studios, instructors, camps and coaches nationwide that are ready to teach. If you don’t have any luck finding a dance studio or teacher in your area, lessons are also available on the Internet enabling you to learn in the comfort of your own home.

Here are some good sites to try:

  • Learntodance.com: Offers free video dance lessons, which teach visitors to ballroom dance, fox trot, salsa, and more.

  • Dancetv.com: Teaches ballroom dance, waltz, fox trot, and East Coast swing via a series of text-heavy pages. The site also sells a tutorial video and music CD for $30.

  • Learning2dance.com: Provides online lessons – some are free and others cost a few dollars – in the waltz, salsa, ballroom and other styles.

  • YouTube.com: This site’s massive video library includes free instructional clips in classical and contemporary dance moves. Just type in the kind of dance you’re interested in learning in the search space at the top of the page, for a variety of demonstrative options.

You also can learn to dance with the help of dance videos or DVDs (many options exist) that you can rent from your local library or video store, or purchase at www.collagevideo.com.

Savvy Tips: Another dancing/exercise option is Dance Dance Revolution (www.ddrgame.com), a fun, interactive variety of video games that comes with a square, plastic dance pad that you place in front on your television. Players are challenged to match their dance steps with the flashing arrows on the screen while keeping up with the beat of the music. Some games require a gaming console like a Wii, Xbox or Playstation to operate them, while others can be plugged right into the TV.

Or, if you like to travel, dancing vacation cruises can be a fun option too — see www.letsdancevacations.com. And as always, if you have a chronic health condition, be sure you consult with your doctor before you start.

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Written By

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.

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