“Square dancing is like a game of ‘Simon Says.’ Just pretend the caller’s name is Simon and do whatever he says!” (Facebook.com/squaredanceUSA)
What do you think of when you think about square dancing? Is it something that was forced on you in your grade school gym class, something your grandparents did, or something you saw on a country music show? In your mind, do you recall girls in gingham dresses with lots of brightly colored crinolines fanning out as their partners wearing matching shirts twirl them around? But, have you ever considered the health benefits associated with square dancing? There are many aspects that can contribute to your health. Let’s explore them, shall we?
It’s a fairly easy assumption that most of us don’t get the exercise we need. We make resolutions, we promise our doctor at every annual physical, and we tell ourselves each evening, ‘Tomorrow I’m going to get started on my exercise routine.’ Now, those are some tall tales! However, what if exercising was set to music and there were lots of people focused on doing the same thing you were, so you didn’t feel like you were standing out in a crowd? Would you give it a try? That’s a simplified explanation of square dancing. It’s estimated that for each half hour of square dancing, most folks will burn off 200 to 400 calories and reduce their cholesterol levels if done on a regular basis. Since square dancing is classified as a weight-bearing activity, your bone health will also improve. The continual movements help to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. That’s good for your heart; however, it’s recommended that you check with your doctor if you are already under care for heart-related issues before starting any exercise program.
Square dancing is also mentally stimulating and improves focus. Concentration is key to keeping up with the rest of the group and following the steps of the caller who guides the dance. Coordination is needed to be sure you don’t run into your partner or the couple beside you, while at the same time you follow along in time with the group. There’s no mind wandering on the dance floor; focusing on the steps and anticipating what’s ahead is good mental exercise. As Dot and Melvin who square danced for ten plus years shared, “The more you dance, the more complex patterns you learn.” Memorizing various steps improves not only your dancing but also exercises your mind.
Along with the dancing and gaining those mental and healthy benefits, you also get to socialize with others. At its heart, square dancing is a social activity. “Square dancing is a great way to meet new people,” said Dot and Melvin. “We enjoyed traveling to different parts of the south with our club, dancing to callers we liked and helping to teach newcomers the steps. We made a lot of friends and went to places we might not have visited otherwise.”
Try square dancing for the fun of it; the health benefits are just that — benefits. Research your area for places to take lessons or check out local square dancing clubs. Get a few other couples to join in or just show up to make some new friends. As the saying goes, ‘Dance like no one is watching.’ Hear the music? Get on your feet!