Posts Tagged ‘dance’

When I was little my grandmother loved everything about Hawaii and had the opportunity to travel there several times. She always wanted my sister and I to take a hula dance classes, but when you are a teenager, you don’t always want to do what your family asks of you. Fast forward 20+ years and my sister and I are making granny’s dream come true and will perform this week in our first hula dance review!

I initially thought, “I am too old for this! Who in their 40’s takes up hula dance classes?” The answer is: Anyone can take up hula dancing at any age! Hula is more than movement, it is story telling. With over 300 forms of hula, each has its own unique vocabulary of motion. A professionally trained hula dancer can recognize the lineage from teacher to teacher just by these movements.  There are two overarching umbrellas in hula dancing hula kahiko, is the traditional style of hula dance, and hula auana, which was popularized by the influx of tourists to the Hawaiian Islands and is a more modern style.

Hula is a great form of exercise. From beginners to advanced dancers, the slow, precise, focused movements help with coordination and muscle awareness, like yoga. It can also have a positive impact on hypertension and is a heart healthy exercise. One study found that 3 months after participants completed a 12-week hula class, participants’ systolic blood pressure had fallen by an average of 18.3 points—twice as much as those who did not participate in the class. The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities completed a 5-year research evaluating the impact of hula, as an exercise method for cardiac rehabilitation. The findings indicated improvements with breathing, endurance, muscle strength, and flexibility, due to coordinating the music and the chanting. Furthermore, participants reported improvements in memory, cultural insight, concentration, mental stimulation and just “feeling better overall” (Maskarinec, et al. 2017).

Learning about the health benefits is encouraging, but honestly, hula (or any style of dance) helps improve quality of life. Dancing is therapeutic and is a mentally healing experience for me. It is an avenue to socialize with women of all ages, express my emotions, and a way to spend quality time with my sister. And to my granny, “Sorry it took me so long to make this dream come true. You were right, I love it!”

So, who is too old to take dance lessons? Not me and not you! I encourage you to go out and try! Who knows? You might just love it too!

Written by: Dr. Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Darke County

Reviewed by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Lucas County


Essoyan, S. (2013). Hula helps heart, soul, isle study discovers. Honolulu Star-Advertiser. https://www2.jabsom.hawaii.edu/native/docs/news/Hula_helps_heart_soul_isle_study_discovers_StarAdvertiser_8-2-13.pdf

Kaholokula, J., Look, M., Mabellos, T., Zhang, G., de Silva, M., Yoshimura, S., Solatorio, C., Wills, T., Seto, T., and Sinclair, K. (2017). Cultural dance program improves hypertension management for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders: A pilot randomized trial. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 4(1), 35–46. doi: 10.1007/s40615-015-0198-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5283501/

National Institute on Health. (2019, September 10). Hula for Heart Health: Using Traditional Dance to Lower Blood Pressure. https://www.nimhd.nih.gov/news-events/features/clinical-health-services/hula.html

Maskarinec, G. Look, M., Tolentino, K., Trask-Batti, M., Seto, T., de Silva, M., & Kaholokua, J. (2014, March 27) . Patient Perspectives on the Hula Empowering Lifestyle Adaptation Study: Benefits of Dancing Hula for Cardiac Rehabilitation.  Health Promotion Practice, 16(1).  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4177511/

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I love to watch people dance, and obviously others do as well because competitive dance shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance are dominating the world of reality television.

But what’s even better than watching someone dance is actually getting up and dancing.  You don’t need to be a dance pro to move to music, you just need to let go of your inhibitions and enjoy the process of moving to music.

If you’ve ever watched young children at a wedding reception, they love to get on the dance floor and move around.  They’re not self-conscious or embarrassed. However, as we age, our fear of looking foolish or of not doing something perfectly keeps us from enjoying the moment.

That’s a shame, because the physical and mental benefits of dancing are numerous.  Regardless of the type of dance—be it ballroom, ballet, Zumba, salsa, hip-hop or line dancing—each style can play a role in helping us stay fit.

Why Dance?

The fitness and health benefits of dancing are numerous.  A recent study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that older adults who participated in dance once a week for 18 months actually had an increase in their brain’s hippocampus size.

This is great news, as the hippocampus plays a key role in learning and memory.  Dance is an art form, merging creativity, self-expression and physical activity—all of which boost mental health.

Other Fitness & Health Benefits of Dance include:

  • Weight loss
  • Safe and easy on the joints
  • Improves strength, flexibility, agility and balance
  • Requires good posture and better control of the body’s movements
  • Conditions the heart and cardiovascular system
  • Improves lung capacity
  • Increases energy
  • Reduces stress
  • Builds confidence and self esteem
  • Lifts spirits and fights depression
  • Boosts memory and keeps the brain active
  • A great social activity, hobby and a positive way to meet people

So what are you waiting for? Play some music, get up, and dance!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu







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