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Dancing the Parkie-Polka

Posted Sep 28 2008 11:47am

It’s been known for a while that singing for a PD patient is not only great therapy emotionally, but helps strengthens the vocal cords, giving the patient better volume while speaking. Now there’s evidence that dancing has proven to be great therapy.

In an article sent out by the NWPF (Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation), Michael Lieb, a sufferer with the disease admits that dancing has “…been a source of great inspiration and a source of hope.”

He says that he has been given “the upper hand” (or could it be said ‘foot’?!) in his fight with PD. He has found great inspiration and hope in getting his feet off the ground and in step with the beat.

According to the article, dancing “may even be more beneficial than regular exercise because music stimulates parts of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease, and being together forms and important sense of community.”

Mayo Clinic researchers reported that social dancing helps to reduce stress, increase energy, improve strength, and increase muscle tone and coordination.

Parkinson’s patients struggle with various physical conditions associated with the disease. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says that dancing can lower your risk of coronary heart disease, decrease blood pressure, help you manage your weight, and strengthen the bones of your legs and hips.

The New England Journal of Medicine found that dancing can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in the elderly and it was found that dancing was the only physical activity out of 11 that was associated with a lower risk of dementia, most likely because it engages brain, as well as physical activity.

Dancing has many benefits on brain ‘health’. It increases blood flow to the brain. It creates an atmosphere for socializing which reduces stress, depression, and the feeling of loneliness. It requires the memorization of steps and partnering with someone, providing mental challenges for a healthy brain. Studies have proven that dance may even be more beneficial than regular exercise because music stimulates parts of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease, and being together forms an important sense of community, as stated above.

After twelve weeks in the class that Lieb participates in, other participants said they didn’t use their walkers much anymore and Lieb stated that dancing has enabled him to perform movements that he didn’t think were possible for him, even before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He feels he’s gained greater flexibility, balance, and a new outlook on life.

Experts believe that as long as dancing is done safely, it certainly can do no harm. So, what are you waiting for? Grab those dancin’ shoes, a partner, put on that favorite ‘record’ and start swingin’!

Sherri, “The Health and Benefits of Dancing”

Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation, Issue September 26, 2008, “Dance Therapy Helpful For Parkinson’s Patients”, by Dr. Holly Phillips

End note: I just received this in my email and thought it was very timely:

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