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Dance for Life

According to The Health Benefits of Dancing, what not many people know is that “if you secretly sashay across your living room when you’re home alone or long to cha-cha with your significant other, you’re in luck. Not only is dancing an exceptional way to let loose and have fun, but it also provides some terrific benefits for your health.” Time to start dancing then.

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“Just how many calories can I burn when dancing?” said Juancho S.P., 65 – rhetorically, actually, since he was told to pick up “an activity, any activity that may not be as strenuous but will still keep him fit” by his doctor, who was quickly scoffed at. “If it isn’t THAT strenuous, it’s not really an exercise.”

Juancho S.P. had been seeing his doctor more frequently the last few months – no thanks to “this recurring pain at my chest – if you ask me, it’s nothing, really, just the stress from everything I need to have finished before my retirement,” he says, though “getting checked seemed like a logical idea.”

Then, he adds: “Especially if your wife bugs you day and night about it. Making you eat only this and that. Making sure, as she says it, ‘You’d be around for long still.”

It was during these check-ups that he was told to exercise – “As if my daily responsibilities aren’t enough,” he said – to stay fit. “Lower your risks of coronary heart disease – which the doctor said I could end up having – by decreasing my blood pressure,” Juancho S.P. said.

Like many, though, dancing never struck Juancho S.P. as a healthy activity. “Yeah, right. I didn’t lose weight playing basketball in college some 50 years ago – and he thinks I can lose weight, be fit by dancing?” he said.

This, unfortunately, is a notion shared by many.

According to The Health Benefits of Dancing (SixWise.com), what not many people know is that “if you secretly sashay across your living room when you’re home alone or long to cha-cha with your significant other, you’re in luck. Not only is dancing an exceptional way to let loose and have fun, but it also provides some terrific benefits for your health.”

A 21-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, in fact, found that dancing can even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in the elderly – with participants over the age of 75 who engaged in reading, dancing and playing musical instruments, and board games once a week had a 7% lower risk of dementia compared to those who did not. Those who engaged in these activities at least 11 days a month had a 63% lower risk. Interestingly, dancing was the only physical activity out of 11 in the study that was associated with a lower risk of dementia.

“This is perhaps because dance music engages the dancer’s mind,” says Joe Verghese, a neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a lead researcher of the study, adding that “dancing may be a triple benefit for the brain. Not only does the physical aspect of dancing increase blood flow to the brain, but also the social aspect of the activity leads to less stress, depression, and loneliness. Further, dancing requires memorizing steps and working with a partner, both of which provide mental challenges that are crucial for brain health.”

Among others, Mayo Clinic researchers reported that social dancing helps reduce stress, increase energy, improve strength, increase muscle tone and coordination – benefits that, adds the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) are further boost by dancing’s benefits of lowering risk of coronary heart disease, decreasing blood pressure, helping manage weight, and strengthening the bones of legs and hips.

Obviously, stresses exercise physiologist Catherine Cram, MS, of Comprehensive Fitness Consulting in Middleton, Wisconsin in the US, as quoted by SixWise.com, “the amount of benefit you get from dancing depends on, like most exercises, the type of dancing you’re doing, how strenuous it is, the duration, and your skill level.”

There are, in fact, specific benefits to be derived from specific dances. Ballroom dancing is said to condition the body by building and increasing stamina, helping keep the heart in shape, developing the circulatory system, strengthening and tones legs and body, and increasing flexibility and balance. Belly dancing helps improve posture and muscle toning, maintains flexibility, tones and firms arms and shoulders, and helps prepare women for childbirth. As for salsa dancing, it helps build endurance and stamina (therefore weight loss), relieves stress, and can lead to a reduced heart rate over time.

Months after he was advised to start dancing, Juancho S.P. has yet to fully appreciate the value of dancing – “I don’t notice much difference,” he now says, even if admitting “I have been losing a lot of weight – and not feel any weaker or anything for being so, since I’ve been dancing with my wife for hours way after my usual work hours for weeks now,” he adds, smiling.

But acknowledgment, in this case, seems unnecessary, for as long as the benefits of dancing is noted, even if indirectly. Because then, dancing would have served its purpose.

Believing that knowing on its own is not good enough, "you have to share what you know, too", Mikee dela Cruz gladly shares through his writing. A (BA) Communication Studies graduate, he had stints with UNAIDS, UNICEF and Ford Foundation, among others, writing "just about everything". Read on as he does some sharing through Zest Magazine.

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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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