Dancing Your Way to Better Health

April 26, 2013

Do you enjoy dancing? If so, you may want to consider dancing as fun way to get, and stay, in good shape. Read on to learn about some of the potential health benefits of dancing!

Increased flexibility. Being flexible is an important part of being healthy. Most forms of dance require bending and stretching that allow the muscles to flex and extend, which can reduce stiffness and ease joint pain.

More endurance. Since dance is a physical exercise, it can help you build endurance. Endurance allows the muscles to work harder for longer periods of time without fatigue. Engaging in vigorous dancing, such as jazz or line dancing, can improve one’s endurance level.

Potential weight loss.  You may be able to cha-cha your way to a smaller pants size through dance. A study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that a program of aerobic dance training helped participants lose weight and increase their aerobic endurance and stamina. Like other moderate exercise activities such as brisk walking, cycling or aerobics, dancing can help tone your body and increase your metabolism to burn calories. For example, according to the American Council on Exercise, a 160-lb.person can burn 130 calories in 30 minutes by doing rhythmic dances like the foxtrot or waltz.

Better balance. As we get older, our risk of falling increases – mostly due to decreased muscle strength and trouble with balance.  Because dancing often requires a lot of fast movement, you can improve your muscle strength and increase stabilization.

Improved well-being.  Dance is a social activity that can provide many opportunities to meet other people. Being socially engaged can increase self-confidence and happiness, while reducing stress.

Dancing is a convenient form of physical activity because you can do it nearly anywhere and with anyone—you can try it on your own, with your family, a partner, or group of friends. Plus, there are so many different types of dance you can try, including (but certainly not limited to!) square dancing, line dancing, folk dancing, ballroom, belly dancing, jazz, tap and salsa. If one type of dance doesn’t seem to suit you, there are many other types to try.

If you aren’t already dancing regularly and want to get started with a dance class or routine, remember to talk to your doctor—your doctor may have recommendations about what types of dance are best for you. Since some types of dance are more rigorous than others, ask your physician if there are any physical restrictions that you need to keep in mind before you start dancing.

Looking for low-cost ways to get your dance on?  Consider these fun ideas:

  • Look for some dance schools or dance halls that hold social dances that are open to the public.
  • Join a community dance troupe that performs for local retirement homes or nursing homes. You could get the benefit of physical activity while giving back to the community.
  • Rent dance DVDs from your local library, turn up the music, and have your own dance party alone or with friends.

For more healthy, low-cost tips and ideas, check out The Healthcare Survival Guide!


All about health screenings…and how to get them for little or no cost

April 24, 2013

What are health screenings, and why do I need them?

Health screenings are medical tests that check your risk for certain diseases and conditions.  Getting screened is important—it’s often the first step a person can take toward better health and well-being.  From there, once you know your risks, you can take action by making healthy lifestyle changes that can help lower your risks for disease.


What are some types of health screenings?

There are many different types of health screenings available. Some are routine, such as those that test your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body mass index (BMI), and blood glucose.

Then there are screenings that are more specific to you, and your doctor may recommend that you undergo these screenings based on your age, gender, family history, and other risk factors.  Examples of these screenings include tests for bone density, hearing or vision loss, sexually transmitted diseases, and screenings for various types of cancer, such as a mammogram (breast cancer), Pap test (cervical cancer), PSA test for some men over the age of 50 (prostate cancer), or colonoscopy, fecal occult blood test, or sigmoidoscopy (three of the many tests available that can help detect colorectal cancer).

Those are just some of the many examples of health screenings available. Undergoing health screenings is a good idea because it may help identify disease in its earliest—and most treatable—stages.


How do I know what types of health screenings are right for me?

Your age, gender, family history, and other factors will come into play when determining which screenings are appropriate for you.  Your doctor will know best, so always talk to your doctor to determine which screenings are right for you.  If you’re a Health Advocate member and don’t currently have a family doctor, call your Personal Health Advocate, who can locate an in-network physician whose hours and location are convenient for you.

The following resources may also be helpful in determining which screenings could be appropriate for you:


Where can I find free or low-cost health screenings?

It’s important to note that pharmacies, retailers, and employee health and wellness fairs only offer a limited amount of screenings. Again, your doctor will be your best resource for health screenings, or for giving you referrals to see specialists or other providers for any screenings that your doctor does not perform.

Preventive health screenings are an effective way to identify your risk for disease. For many people, getting screened is the first step to better health.  Once you understand your health risks, you can take steps to reduce your risk, such as exercising regularly, eating a healthier diet, and more. These healthy lifestyle changes can go a long way in helping you improve and maintain your health.