Local seniors have learned the key to overall healthy living may be only a few steps — and turns — away.
As a physical activity, dancing is an exercise that impacts mental and health as well as having social benefits.
“We had tried several other things and went through two or three years with different types of stuff,” said Amanda Welborn, who has been dancing for five years.
“So we started going to the Shag classes, then we got into line dancing, which is two totally different things.”
Different types of dancing can appeal to social status and mental ability as well as physical ability.
“The line dancing to me helps my concentration more than anything else because if you let your mind wander while you are dancing, [you get out of step,]” said Welborn.
“It’s amazing. It’s like doing crossword puzzles. When you’re doing crossword puzzles, you can kind of feel the connections and line dances like that because you’ve got to keep your mind on that routine.”
According to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, this kind of concentration combined with exercise can have a positive impact on a senior’s future.
“Reading, playing board games, playing musical instruments, and dancing were associated with a lower risk of dementia,” stated the study. “Exercise is said to have beneficial effects on the brain by promoting plasticity, increasing the levels of neurotrophic factors in the brain, and enhancing resistance to insults.”
Instructor Jene Yarborough may be proof.
“[Dancing] keeps you fit. Since I started dancing, my balance is better,” said Yarborough, who has been dancing for just more than a decade.
“It makes me feel good. When I go home from class, [I’m] a little tired, that’s normal, but I’m energized. Just a few hours before I danced, I was on the couch flipping through TV, but this makes you get up and go.”
“It’s better than sitting at home with the TV,” said Welborn, “and the more you do it, the more you can do it. It’s slow and then fast, slow and then fast for two hours. It’s healthy. It gives you energy to do other things.”
It also helps create social bonds which can be good for emotional health as well.
“It’s just nice to be with people pretty much your own age who like the same things,” said Welborn, who explained there are several social dances throughout the region.
“I was amazed at the dances there are that you can drive to every weekend,” said Welborn, who often carpools with other members of the various classes.
Although there are many seniors who enjoy a variety of styles of dancing including waltzing with or without a partner, younger people are invited to some classes.
“People bring their children because they don’t have babysitters and that’s fine as long as they’re not so small they can’t get out of the way,” said Yarborough, explaining some people under 55 have joined her classes.
Several classes of a variety of dance styles are available through the Yadkin Valley Economic Development District, Inc. (YVEDDI).
The Yadkin Valley Senior Center at 121 Delos Martin Drive in Jonesville offers Beginner Shag with Brian Gillam at 6:30 p.m. and Shag from 2 at 7:45 p.m. every Tuesday except the month of April.
Line Dancing is offered on Mondays at 10 a.m. and Thursdays at 6 p.m. with a beginner’s class at 5 on Thursdays.
Clogging is also available in Jonesville at 6 p.m. on Mondays.
Class prices vary. For more information, call 336-526-1087.
The Yadkin County Senior Center located at 205 S. Jackson St. in Yadkinville offers music-based exercise programs as well including Walking to Music each week day at 10 a.m. and Zumba at 6 p.m. on Mondays.
For more information, call 336-679-3596.
For Welborn, the opportunities to dance in the Yadkin Valley are somewhat surprising.
“It used to be in this county when I was growing up nobody danced. You just didn’t do that kind of thing,” said Welborn, “and now they’re laying down dance floors in town and inviting people.
“The kids come out, there’s babies in strollers and they lay down the dance floor the size of [a large room] and they bring their lawn chairs and it’s packed.”
That may be because dancing has so many benefits.
“You get addicted to it because it’s a challenge to learn something new. It’s just like playing games,” said Yarborough, “there’s that little challenge and then you get good friends and you learn and your friendship circle grows a little bit.”
For more information about senior programs through YVEDDI, go to YVEDDI.com.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.