Updated: Dec 16, 2019
Baby Boomers loved Valerie Harper as TV's "Rhoda" in the 1970s.
More recently, she refused to let cancer keep her from the physically demanding “Dancing with the Stars." She said she wanted to show people that, no matter what the challenge, we must "keep on, keep on."
The same generation shed a tear when Harper, 80, recently lost her long battle with the disease. But we can take inspiration from her determination to not let age or illness prevent her from living life on her own terms.
Plus, if you think dancing and working out are unrelated, well: Guess again.
Dancing of any kind is good exercise for mature people, with millions loving the fun, friendship, and romance of ballroom dancing, like that on the long-running show. Meanwhile, cardio and resistance training at the gym improve your ability to meet the demands of dance in style.
Dancing as a Fun Way to Work Out
Like any cardiovascular activity, dancing is good for your heart. It also improves strength, balance and coordination. Thirty minutes of dancing will burn about the same number of calories as jogging, WebMD says.
Plus, remembering the choreography engages our brains in ways that help maintain cognitive health, as well.
We’re all supposed to get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise each week. The intensity level of this activity depends on how hard you want to work and the style of dance – whether it’s tango, hip-hop, salsa or whatever.
The variety is great for anyone, no matter how fit you might be already. If you have any health concerns, talk to your doctor, of course.
Enrolling in a fitness studio or a dance class brings a vibrant social outlet, which is so important to us in later life to avoid isolation. We also get to use our creativity and imagination. And dancing is just fun. We all know that we're more likely to stick with an activity if we enjoy it.
How the Gym Helps
We can improve our fitness for dancing by focusing on:
Arms, legs, glutes (your butt) and back
This will include resistance bands, stretching, and probably cardio and weights. And don’t worry – you won’t lose your “dancer’s lines” by lifting weights, but you will improve balance, bone density, and muscle tone.
Harper was a Broadway dancer before "Mary Tyler Moore" made her an icon, so she had been super-fit earlier in life. At 74, she said she went on “Dancing with the Stars” partly because her doctors wanted her to exercise after she was diagnosed.
"Don't die until you're dead!" she advised viewers then. "Don't give up on your life. Till God strikes you dead, don't just lay there."
We couldn’t agree more. We’re here to help you build up your flexibility, aerobic conditioning, and strength. We can help you develop a workout to meet your needs – for dancing or anything else -- no matter how much experience you have in a fitness studio, gym or dance hall.