Independent agers skip the gym for this instead

Aging. It happens to the best of us.

And, as I always remind myself when I see a new fine line or gray hair, getting older is better than the alternative.

But vanity aside, there is one potential outcome of getting older that does concern me…

Losing my independence — not being able to do the things we all take for granted, like dressing myself, cooking, feeding myself, shopping, walking, bathing or even using the bathroom.

There are a variety of reasons an older adult might lose the ability to do these daily tasks for him or herself. But mainly, it comes down to two things: a loss of physical mobility or a loss of cognitive ability.

Luckily, there’s a healthy (and fun!) habit you can start now to lower your risk of losing your independence from either of these causes…

The groovy moves keep you mobile as you age

A new study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports uncovered an exciting way to keep yourself high-functioning and independent as you get older…

Dancing.

The study included data from 1,003 older Japanese women. At the beginning of the study, these women completed a survey which asked them if they participated in 16 forms of exercise. It turned out, the women who got their exercise by dancing ended up with amazing results eight years later…

Dancing significantly reduced their odds of developing disabilities that prevented them from completing daily tasks like walking, eating, bathing, getting dressed and using the bathroom. In fact, they were a jaw-dropping 73 percent less likely to have issues with these daily tasks.

Researchers can’t say for sure if dancing was the only reason these women stayed independent as they got older. But they do know that dancing has plenty of documented benefits that might help older women achieve this outcome, like:

  • Improved balance
  • Increased strength
  • More endurance
  • Better cognitive ability

Fun ways to fit more dancing into your life

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to dancing is worrying about whether they’re good. Dancing isn’t about being good. It’s about having fun, expressing yourself and (of course) getting some exercise!

Related: Dance your pain away — this way

If you feel self-conscious about your dancing skills, you can start letting loose at home alone first. Close the blinds and turn on a song that makes you move. You can also rent dance fitness DVDs from the library or order them online, so you can reap the benefits of dancing without worry about what people think.

Of course, if self-consciousnesses isn’t an issue, share your groovy moves with the world by:

  • Scheduling a weekly or monthly dance outing with friends at a club, country western bar or even an American Legion line dancing event.
  • Taking a dance class. Tap. Hip-hop. Ballroom. There are so many different types of dance you can learn while improving your health too.
  • Throwing your own dance parties. Clear out the living room, throw up a disco ball, grab your old Saturday Night Fever record and get down with your favorite friends.

Sources:

  1. Dancing may help older women maintain the ability to perform daily tasks — ScienceDaily
  2. Exercise type and activities of daily living disability in older women: An 8‐year population‐based cohort studyScandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.