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Ballroom Dancing: DanceSport Inc.

Ballroom dancing may be considered as a tool to better social interactions; but what is not as known is how it can actually better health.

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By PePe Castro

When Maria Emilia Z. Silva, vice president of Alsco Development Corp., a real estate company with offices in Makati City and Sta. Rosa, Laguna, started ballroom dancing, it was mainly because her doctor told her she had high cholesterol levels and, as such, need to exercise – while, initially, she headed to the gym to lose weight, “after just a month (of regularly visiting the gym), I got bored. A friend told me, ‘Why don’t you do dancing?’ So I did.”

And so with dancing, not only did Silva “maintain my cholesterol level,” even losing weight to be a size smaller than she was when she started, but what came with it was a passion – enough passion, in fact, to push Silva to eventually establish Studio 116, a ballroom dance studio that “aims to popularize ballroom dancing, not only as a competitive sport, but also as an alternative (activity) to keep yourself healthy while having fun.”

Ballroom dancing has been around for sometime – extravagantly depicted in artworks coming from different eras. As a sport, though, called dancesport – generally defined by the Dancesport Council of the Philippines as “the pairing of male and female dancers using the required technique, together with floorcraft and artistic interpretation to produce a highly disciplined dance performance” – it started in 1907 in Nice, where choreographer Camille de Rhynal saw the business sense in making use of dance to attract and earn from its followers.

Subsequently, by 1921, dancesport already had different categories (professionals, amateurs, and mix couples), with the dances generally grouped into Standard, Latin, and Formation dances. The Standard dances include Waltz (based on the American Bostonwals), Tango (from Brazil), Viennese Waltz (from the South German Alps area), Slow Foxtrot (popular 1940’s bar dance), and Quickstep (derived from foxtrot, only slower). Latin dances include the Samba (originally African, but popularized by carnival parties in Brazil), Cha Cha Cha (developed from the Mambo), Rumba (defined as a new type of foxtrot with additional hip actions), Paso Doble (the only Latin dance not coming from the “Negro” culture, with roots in Spain), and Jive (swing dance influenced by the Rock & Roll, Boogie, and African/American swing). And then there’s the Formation dancing, where couples dance the same steps in synchronized manners.

For the likes of Silva, though, the appeal to ballroom dance isn’t with the competing – it’s just to dance itself.

“(Ballroom dancing) is addicting,” Silva says, “very, very addicting.” Worse, “once you get hooked on it, it will cost you a lot.”

The ongoing rate for ballroom dancing lessons range from P2,500 to P3,000 for two hours, which, Silva admits, is expensive. This is also why, for Studio 116, Silva wants “others (non-competitive dancers) to come,” so they can make the rates more affordable.” Group classes, with a module that is good for four one-hour sessions, can only cost P1,600, translating to P400 per session. For those wanting to avail of sessions only (not the whole module), the cost is P500 per session. Private lessons (one student per teacher) are usually charged from P1,000 to P1,500 per hour. The studio is also available for rental for P1,650 per hour.

Dance competitors have to spend even more – Studio 116 Latin dance instructor Ednah Ledesma, who is the only Asian to win the Blackpool Senior Latin Champion (in 2005) in the United Kingdom, says that for every competition she joins, she has to raise $8,000, “which is about half a million pesos. Besides that, there are the costumes that could cost up to $600 each, the shoes that could range from $200 to $400, and a lot of practice time in the studio (for dancesport competitors, workshops range from $120 to $130 per 45 minutes),” she says. “If you really quantify everything, it will be from half a million pesos or more.”

Silva likens ballroom dancing to playing golf – expense-wise, that it. “It costs as much as playing golf,” she says. “(With golf) the green fee is P2,000, plus your caddie, plus your membership in a country club… But all golfers know (their sport) is expensive, yet they continue playing, they forget (the expenses). It’s the same with (ballroom dancing).”

The pros always outweigh the cons of ballroom dancing, however – the oft-highlighted benefits include the fitness one gets from it; the socialization that builds camaraderie (it’s social dancing, after all); and the fun that can be had when dancing.

“When I started dancing, I kept stepping on a foot, so I kept saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry!’ My dance instructor asked why I was apologizing. I said, ‘Because I’m stepping on your foot.’ He said that I wasn’t – I was actually stepping on my (own) foot,” Silva says. “I have a lot of people who come here telling me they don’t have rhythm, they don’t have beat, they don’t have anything. You’d be surprised – after (taking) two sessions, you’ll see them dancing away already. I say to them: ‘If you can walk, you can dance.’”

Believing that everyone's perspective is important, Zest Magazine has opted to provide an avenue for these perspectives to be known. care to hear the publication's contributing writers; or better yet, do some contributing yourself by contacting info@zestmag.com.

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6 Exercise safety tips

Now, as social restrictions ease, you may find yourself stepping up your workouts, whether you’re training for an event or working to improve your game in a recreational league.

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are more aware of their health and wellness. Now, as social restrictions ease, you may find yourself stepping up your workouts, whether you’re training for an event or working to improve your game in a recreational league.

Sprains, strains and injuries can happen to even the most seasoned athletes. When you’re testing your limits, even a minor injury can alter your performance. Consider products and supports like these from the CURAD Performance Series product line, available at Walmart and Amazon, to help you get back in the game quickly and safely.

Find more resources to support your fitness journey at CURAD.com.

Keep Dirt and Germs Away

The more active you are, the harder it can be to find a bandage that stays with you all day or all game long.

Spray Away Sore Spots

Controlling mild pain can help keep you at the top of your game, and a topical analgesic works fast to heal common pain brought on by fitness and exercise, such as pain in knees, feet, shoulders and backs.

Put Pain in the Past

When recovery becomes the name of the game and pain relief is needed after daily workouts or bodily injuries. Cold packs work to heal bruises, reduce swelling and relieve headaches and general pain points while microwavable heat packs provide satisfying heat therapy to address sore and stiff joints, muscle cramps and tension.

Reduce Impact of Knee Strain

Weak, injured or arthritic knees can come from many sources, including tendonitis and a wide range of conditions that result in strain or overuse. An adjustable band can provide support for on-field sports and during workouts or everyday activities.

Manage Pain and Relieve Pressure

If you participate in endurance and strength exercises or certain sports, you may ask a lot of your joints. Kinesiology tape can be configured a multitude of ways to help reduce pain and improve blood circulation, as well as relieve tension and pressure.

Control Back Strain

When your back is strained, your body and performance can suffer. A mild or moderate sprain can benefit from strong support and compression.

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Fitness

Exercise can provide relief for dry, itchy eyes

A significant increase in tear secretion and tear film stability after participating in aerobic exercise can be another remedy for relieving dry, itchy eyes.

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Photo by Quinten de Graaf from Unsplash.com

A team led by researchers from the University of Waterloo discovered that a significant increase in tear secretion and tear film stability after participating in aerobic exercise can be another remedy for relieving dry, itchy eyes. 

Every time we blink, our eyes are covered in tear film—an essential protective coating necessary for maintaining healthy ocular function. Healthy tear film comprises three layers–oil, water, and mucin–that work together to hydrate the ocular surface and protect against infection-causing irritants like dust or dirt.

When any part of the tear film becomes unstable, the ocular surface can develop dry spots, causing eye symptoms like itchiness or stinging and burning sensations.

“With so much of our activity tied to screen usage, dry eye symptoms are becoming increasingly common,” said Heinz Otchere, a PhD candidate in vision science at Waterloo. “Instead of having to use eye drops or other alternative treatments, our study aimed to determine if remaining physically active can be an effective preventative measure against dryness.”

Fifty-two participants were divided into two groups—athlete and non-athlete—to participate in an exercise session. Participants in the athlete group exercised at least five times per week, while non-athlete participants exercised no more than once per week. Researchers, which included experts from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, performed visual examinations before and five minutes after each exercise session, where tear secretion and tear break-up time were assessed.

While participants in the athlete group showed the largest increase, Otchere says all participants experienced a meaningful boost in tear quantity and tear film stability after the exercise session. 

“It can be challenging for people to regularly exercise when the demand is there to work increasingly longer hours in front of screens,” Otchere said. “However, our findings show physical activity can be really important for not just our overall well-being, but for our ocular health too.”

The study, Differential effect of maximal incremental treadmill exercise on tear secretion and tear film stability in athletes and non-athletes, was co-authored by Otchere, the University of Cape Coast’s Samuel Abokyi, Sekyere Nyamaah, and Michael Ntodie, and Ghana’s Our Lady of Grace Hospital’s Yaw Osei Akoto. It was recently published in the Experimental Eye Research journal.

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Fitness

Late-life exercise shows rejuvenating effects on cellular level

Late-life exercise mitigates skeletal muscle epigenetic aging.

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Photo by Caley Vanular from Unsplash.com

For people who hate exercising, here comes some more bad news: it may also keep you younger. Not just looking younger, but actually younger, on an epigenetic level. By now, the benefits of exercise have been well established, including increased strength of bones and muscles, improved mobility and endurance, and lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

But younger?

A study recently published in Aging Cell, “Late-life exercise mitigates skeletal muscle epigenetic aging,” suggests this could be the case. The paper was written by a team of seven researchers across three institutions, including Kevin Murach, an assistant professor in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation at the U of A. Murach’s grant from the National Institute of Health funded the study, and he was one of three co-first authors.

Bootcamp for Mice

While the paper is dense with data, reflecting the use of several analytic tools, the experiment that generated the data was relatively straightforward. Lab mice nearing the end of their natural lifespan, at 22 months, were allowed access to a weighted exercise wheel. Generally, mice require no coercion to run and will do so voluntarily. Older mice will run anywhere from six to eight kilometers a day, mostly in spurts, while younger mice may run up to 10-12 kilometers. The weighted wheel ensured they built muscle. While there isn’t a direct analogue to most human exercise routines, Murach likened it to “a soldier carrying a heavy backpack many miles.”

When the mice were studied after two months of progressive weighted wheel running, it was determined that they were the epigenetic age of mice eight weeks younger than sedentary mice of the same age — 24 months. Murach noted that while the specific strain of mice and their housing conditions can impact lifespans, “historically, they start dropping off after 24 months at a significant rate.” Needless to say, when your lifespan is measured in months, an extra eight weeks — roughly 10 percent of that lifespan — is a noteworthy gain.

Methylation, My Dear Watson

The science behind this, while complicated, hinges largely on a biological process known as DNA methylation. A recent New York Times article discussing Murach’s work on muscle memory described methylation “as a process in which clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach themselves to the outside of genes like minuscule barnacles, making the genes more or less likely to turn on and produce particular proteins.”

As the body ages, there tends to be increased DNA methylation, or even hypermethylation, at promoter sites on genes in muscle. “DNA methylation changes in a lifespan tend to happen in a somewhat systematic fashion,” Murach explained, “to the point you can look at someone’s DNA from a given tissue sample and with a fair degree of accuracy predict their chronological age.” Due to this, researchers can use one of a number of “methylation clocks” to determine the age of a DNA sample.

DNA Methylation, Aging and Exercise

While the paper strengthens the case for exercise, there is still much that needs to be learned. Though the connection between methylation and aging is clear, the connection between methylation and muscle function is less clear. Murach is not yet prepared to say that the reversal of methylation with exercise is causative for improved muscle health. “That’s not what the study was set up to do,” he explained. However, he intends to pursue future studies to determine if “changes in methylation result in altered muscle function.”

“If so, what are the consequences of this?” he continued. “Do changes on these very specific methylation sites have an actual phenotype that emerges from that? Is it what’s causing aging or is it just associated with it? Is it just something that happens in concert with a variety of other things that are happening during the aging process? So that’s what we don’t know.”

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