Dancing is good for the heart and good for the brain, because exercise and socializing help reduce the risk of dementia

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Dancing is more than a hobby for retired Lou Tiziani; it helps him stay young.

Twice a week, he helps organize New Vogue dance events in the Wollongong area and runs its own website with all the dances in the region from the Highlands to the South Coast.

An elderly man in a blue polo shirt dances with a woman in a striped top.
New Vogue sequence dancing originated in colonial Australia in the 1930s in town halls and rural barns.ABC Illawarra: Sarah Moss

He’s been involved in sequence dancing for over a decade – rock and roll, ballroom and New Vogue between the routines – and performs 68 different dances each month.

“To try to remember them all … this helps the brain, and it definitely keeps you fit by doing it,” he said.

During the lockdown, Mr Tiziani and his partner Lyn Child noticed their condition was decreasing.

“It took us a while to realize, ‘Wait a minute, we’re getting older and we’re not doing anything’, and we need to do something and that’s the main reason we do this dance activity; it’s to keep us a little fitter than what we would be normal,” he said.

Associate Professor Michael Woodward, honorary medical adviser to Dementia Australia, thinks they are on to something.

“We now recognize that one of the biggest fears of older people is developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.” [disease]so it’s understandable that people would want to do what they can to reduce their risk,” he said.

Dancers in a hall
People regularly meet at Marshall Mount Hall to participate in New Vogue sequence dances. ABC Illawarra: Sarah Moss

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A woman in a colorful top is smiling.  She stands in front of a country house
Dance enthusiast Cris Terry highly recommends New Vogue.ABC Illawarra: Sarah Moss

Cris Terry started dancing when she was five years old, after her great-grandmother made her a skirt, and has barely stopped to catch her breath since.

“She made me a twisted skirt, so I always ran in circles to get my skirt twisted,” said Ms. Terry.

“I’ve done a bit of rock ‘n’ roll and ballroom, but in the last 20 years I’ve been into New Vogue, bush dancing and Scottish country, both Irish and rock ‘n’ roll,” she said.

Ms Terry said she loved that dancing helped her stay fit and alert.

“I couldn’t tell you how much dancing I know, but your brain works all the time, so it’s good for that and it’s good for your social,” she said.

“They say it’s best for warding off Alzheimer’s, so it’s got my tick.”

Cris and a friend dancing
Mrs. Terry invites male friends to dance with her, but says there’s no shortage of dance partners if she goes alone.ABC Illawarra: Sarah Moss

Prevention is better than cure

Over the past decade, individuals have become acutely aware of the sheer number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and the things we can do to prevent them.

“We’ve always known what’s good for our hearts, and there’s a lot of overlap between what’s good for the heart and what’s good for our brain,” said Dr. Woodward.

The rhythm of life

Robyn Rumble has been dancing at the Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club for 28 years and after her husband’s stroke, the couple became determined to play sports every day.

Because of the benefits, doctors encouraged them to take up dancing.

“We have to keep moving, practice; it helps the brain, it helps balance, it also helps the memory to remember the dances,” said Ms Rumble.

“The different styles of tunes, the quicksteps, the foxtrots; they all keep you in a certain rhythm and that helps.”

A woman in black stands next to a man in a blue collared shirt in a country house.
Robyn Rumble and her husband dance several times a week at both Shoalhaven Heads and Marshall Mount Hall.ABC Illawarra: Sarah Moss

Many of the Tuesday night group dancers at Shoalhaven Heads are approaching retirement age and many are over 80 years of age.

“There are currently no young people coming over to record this kind of dance,” Ms Rumble said.

Dancers stand side by side in a country house.
Marshall Mount Hall is only intended for dancing as the floor is considered to be of superior quality.ABC Illawarra: Sarah Moss

Regardless of age, she says it is a lot of fun to attend balls in the countryside.

Associate Professor Michael Woodward wears a collared shirt and suit jacket.  He looks out
Michael Woodward has no doubts about the benefits of dancing.ABC News: Brendan Esposito

“My husband and I went to Merimbula a few weeks ago for a ball there, Wagga, a few weeks before, and next weekend we’re going to Caloundra for a 12-hour dance weekend,” said Ms. Rommel.

Dementia Australia suggests that people should start dancing earlier in life rather than wait until they retire.

“The reduction in dementia risk essentially starts in your 30s and 40s, so don’t wait until your 70s; get involved in sequence dancing, line dancing, or whatever,” said Dr. Woodward.

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