The Herald Bulletin

April 16, 2013

Giddyup! Line dancing your way to fun and fitness

By Baylee Pulliam
The Herald Bulletin

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — Right, left, strut, strut.

Delilah Swinford taps the heel of her boot on the laminate floor, keeping step as line-dancing instructor Marilyn Goldman calls out orders at the front of the room.

“I’m falling over my own feet today,” Swinford said. “But it’s still fun.”

She and about 30 others meet at 9 a.m. every Monday at the community building in Alexandria’s Beulah Park, to listen to music, learn new dances and do-se-do their way to better health. The dancing begins at 9:30.

According to the AARP, dancing can help ward off illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and osteoporosis. It can also increase stamina and flexibility, reduce stress and tension and improve posture and balance, which can help prevent falls.

At the weekly line dance in Alexandria, sponsored by the Madison County Extension Homemakers, first-timers are sometimes “a little sore, a little confused,” said Goldman, from Selma, who’s taught dance for 23 years. “But after a few weeks, they feel a little better, they can reach a little further.”

That’s especially true for people with physical limitations, since dancing is relatively easy on the joints as compared to, say, running.

Swinford is the perfect example. When she was diagnosed with cancer, dancing was “about the only exercise I got after I started chemo,” she said. “It was something I could still do.”

But even if you don’t have physical limitation, dancing can be good exercise and a way to keep trim. An adult weighing 150 pounds can burn roughly 150 calories via 30 minutes of moderate dancing — that’s about as many calories as an individually sized bag of potato chips or an 8-ounce can of soda.

But other than helping you maintain that dancer’s figure, a good waltz or Electric Slide is also a workout for your mind.

Exercise, including dancing, increases the levels of brain chemicals that encourage the growth of nerve cells, and remembering all those hip new moves boosts memory skills, the AARP said.

According to a 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, dancing — in this instance, ballroom dancing — at least twice a week lessened the likelihood people would develop dementia.

Another study showed some people with Alzheimer’s, a degenerative disease affecting memory, could recall things they’d forgotten when they danced to their favorite tunes.

But it’s not the exercise that gets most people interested in dancing, Goldman said — it’s the fun.

She tries to keep it light, mixing in new dances every week. Husband DeWayne serves as disc jockey, playing everything from country, to Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.”

On a recent Monday, she stood at the front of the room calling out dance moves as country singer Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” blared from speakers overhead.

As the song’s tempo increased, some dancers fell out of step or tripped over their own feet. But it wasn’t a big deal — they laughed and jumped back in line.

“For a lot of them, this is their ‘me’ time,” Goldman said. “It’s when they don’t have laundry to do or a pot to stir. It’s when they get out of the house and enjoy themselves.”

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook, @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter or call 648-4250.