To be honest I have two left feet. At weddings, my wife wears steel tipped boots for protection. Upon observing my gyrations to a lively Bon Jovi melody, a colleague recommended an MRI. I was evicted from a zumba class. Therefore, perhaps I am not the right person to espouse musical frolic.
However, recently I note a pattern. Often when I ask cancer patients what they do for exercise, the answer is “dance.” Whether rock, line or salsa, many seem to be lifting their feet to the beat. I have patients who boogie to tango, tap, swing and contra. Formal ballroom cotillion and country-western hoedowns are on the upswing. How very cool that in tough times people get back to one of life’s natural joys.
Exercise, in any form, is very good for us. Exercise prevents heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, degenerative joint disease and stroke. Cancer is less likely to return in active patients. If you do get sick, fitness increases the likelihood of recovery.
Moderate regular activity for 30 minutes, five times a week saves lives. Walking, rowing, swimming, biking, golf or dance has as much benefit as quitting smoking, controlling blood sugar or treating high blood pressure. For those in excellent physical condition who do strenuous exercise such as running, singles tennis or climbing there is slightly more benefit. However, the key is that first 2-3 hours a week of moderate exercise. We are an increasingly sedentary society, and we pay the price in illness. Exercise is the solution.
I think that exercise is not only good for our bodies, but celebrates life itself. Movement gets us away from mental stress and returns us to the triumph of living. It is vital for mind and soul. It reconnects us. Failing to feel our muscles contract, our breath quicken and sweat on our brow, is to neglect what we are. We are not of digits or data; we are complex beings and are made complete in physical strength and movement.
Perhaps, this is part of the beauty of dance. It links our minds and our bodies in revelry. It brings us together even as it rebuilds and replenishes. It connects as one the rhythm of music, soul and movement. I think this is true for many forms of physical activity…the sound of a walk in the woods, wind or splash on the water, gears shifting uphill, the ping of the club. A deep and spiritual part of being human. Exercise is part of life’s festival.
If you do not regularly exercise, like more the 60% of Americans, it is time to restart. Contrary to popular opinion, simply buying that treadmill did not extend your life. If you have an active medical condition, consult your doctor. However, for most of us we do not need permission, except that we give ourselves. Find an exercise you like to do…this is not punishment, it is joy. Gradually increase the duration and distance. You must find time each day (at least 5 times a week) to return to this basic need. You really do not have a choice. When you do not, you pay the price.
Exercise, strut, move, feel life’s flow. Connect and rebuild, body and soul. Take time to enjoy this critical part of life. And, if the spirit moves you, just dance.