Dance and Arthritis

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Category: Arthritis Articles Published on Tuesday, 23 December 2014 Written by Yong Tsai, MD
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Inspired by my wife, I decided to join her in a dance competition for charity, "Dancing with Desire," scheduled at the News Journal Center January 10, 2015 (www.DancingWithDesireDaytona.com). In the past few months, we have taken the opportunity to visit several dance studios, where I have run into two of my patients, one who is 75 years old and one who is 90, each with severe arthritis of the knees. They danced gracefully and performed effortlessly. I was inspired. Could dancing be good for arthritis? Shall you dance?

Besides medication, the treatment plan for arthritis includes a comprehensive exercise regimen designed to increase the flexibility of affected joints and provide pain relief. The motion of exercise on the joints actually squeezes synovial fluid in and out of the joint space, nourishing the cartilage and removing waste products. Without motion, this vital exchange cannot take place, and the joints, therefore, become malnourished. Additionally, exercise helps relieve stress and facilitates a better night's sleep, thus providing more energy throughout the day.

Regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, dancing, swimming, or cycling, boosts cardiovascular fitness, and, in turn, improves both endurance and general physical condition. Also, the release of endorphins and increase in blood flow to the joints as a result of regular exercise can relieve both pain and stiffness. Stretching and range of motion exercises maintain healthy ligaments, tendons, joints and muscles. Furthermore, strengthening exercises, such as light weight-lifting, helps prevent muscle atrophy and even build muscle, which provides strong support for affected joints.

Dancing as part of an exercise regimen offers many benefits for arthritis sufferers. Different styles of dance, from Waltz to Zumba, require varying levels of flexibility, strength, balance, coordination and cardiovascular fitness. Depending on your physical limitations, you can opt for a slow, structured, graceful dance like a Waltz, or, alternatively, an upbeat, energetic dance style that incorporates hip movement, like Salsa or Zumba. Dancing increases the heart rate, burns extra body fat, and builds lean muscle. While dancing is a good weight loss exercise, the benefits largely depend on which style of dancing you are engaged in. Moreover, dance is an integrated mind-body experience. As you move with music, you focus on your movement and posture, immersing fully in the joy of dancing; you forget your daily stresses, and even the fact that you are exercising. Many people find the combination of movement and music either stimulating or relaxing and pleasurable. Because people enjoy dancing, the likelihood of adhering to it as an exercise regimen is high.

Dancing is an excellent form of exercise for people who suffer from arthritis. Shall we dance? Let us make a New Year's resolution to add dance into our exercise programs.

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