60+ years young, a mellow age, a time to slow down not necessarily because I want to, but because my body tells me to. If I ignore the signals, my body objects and rejects me in some way. Pulled or sore muscles, low immunity so that I catch whatever it is the grandkids carry, exhaustion, stomach issues, ‘old people’ ailments. Yet my mind wants to keep going, and my body (most of the time) reluctantly trails along.
So my latest inroads into healthy, active living is tap dancing.
You read that right. Tap dancing.
Never tapped before. A girlfriend wanted to give it a try and I agreed to tag along.
Slipping on a borrowed pair of tap shoes, I stood in a line of tap novices – all adults of a certain age including one brave man, creating a coed group – and began tapping away. From the start of class to the end we moved. We shuffled. We danced. The instructor, with over 30 years of dance and teaching experience, was patient with us first-timers, but kept the class in motion.
After the one-hour class, I am hooked.
The session provided a workout, but not the total exhaustion kind. I was not on the floor stretching and contorting my bones into yoga positions. I did not run breathless around a track, or sweat buckets on an elliptical machine. I was not bored.
Tap is my kind exercise. I feel good moving my body, raising my heart rate, working muscles but not gasping for breath, sweating pools, or keeling over in misery. I will not burn as many calories as more strenuous exercise, but I enjoyed the hour and had fun. And will return.
Afterwards my girlfriend and I went out to lunch.
What could be better – an hour of feel-good body movement followed by a good, hearty feed.
I have no illusions about becoming a star tap dancer. The beginner class is informal, meets weekly but is fluid – people come and go according to their interest and schedule. There is an advanced class. I watched them perform a real tap dance. Impressive, but I will never reach that level. I am in it for the fun and exercise.
On a serious note, there is scientific evidence all kinds of Dance are good for the body and the brain.
A study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience linked dancing to improved “white matter” in the brains of older adults. The white stuff tends to break down as we age, leading to a slower thinking process and memory problems.
Dancing reduces stress, providing emotional and physical relief, helps improve memory and prevent dementia as we age.
Although in tap the legs do most of the work, there are times the arms extend above the shoulders, strengthening and toning arm muscles. The combination of arm and leg movement elevates the heart rate, resulting in a good cardiovascular workout.
Age is not a barrier to learning to tap.
There are exercises that burn more calories, but dance’s starting, stopping and changing direction burns a lot of fuel. And if looking to lose weight, dance boosts your chances – assuming too many additional calories are not consumed gorging after a workout!
I will purchase tap shoes this week and plan on tapping away one morning a week.