Let's Dance

Ok, so I know what you are thinking….this woman is crazy to suggest dancing to people who live with joint pain and all the other symptoms of RA.  But, give me a chance to make my case before you decide.

For many of us, dancing is something we grew up doing to some degree, at some point.  I would guess that 99% of us have danced at some point in our lives.  Perhaps not on a regular basis, but even if it was only at a relative’s wedding, or some moves you broke out while listening to your favorite band, you likely have danced!

The benefits of dancing

Dancing as a physical activity

Let’s review why dancing is so important to our lives.  From a physical standpoint, it keeps our bodies moving, which in and of itself is crucial to our health.  It improves circulation and, because of the nature of dance, it often involves multiple muscles and joints, also a plus. 

Dancing for our mental & emotional health

The idea of learning steps means we are keeping our brains active as well. So, if you are learning a specific dance routine, that keeps our memories sharp.  The fact that dance and music are so closely tied means that we are experiencing joy and the exhilaration of both forms of art! This means that there is a serotonin and endorphin release in our brains that lifts our spirits and enhances our mental health, helping to prevent the depression often associated with chronic disease.

Bringing dancing back into my life

I love to dance but, I have to admit, I dance a lot less, thanks to RA.  That said, I am trying to bring it back into my life, even if I have to modify it to accommodate my joints.  And that is the key.  Like so many other aspects of the management of RA, it is all about adjusting to the circumstances that RA surrounds us with. 

How to modify dancing for rheumatoid arthritis

In terms of dancing, I now move a little less vigorously, but with the same degree of joy as I always have.  I did give it up for a time and I would guess many of you have as well.  I am here to tell you that you need not give up dancing! How is that possible?  By utilizing some strategies to refine your approach.

Try smaller, rhythmic movements

First of all, dancing need not be huge movements.  You can move in small, rhythmic ways, that still offer the joy of dance without the stress on our joints.  Simply swaying in time to the music is dancing!

Learn new steps or movements

Secondly, learning new steps or movements provides our brains with stimulation and memory “exercises” that can only improve our health.  I recently learned a new dance move that was so fun to try and repeating it will certainly be another way to stay sharp from a memory standpoint.

Keep things simple

Third, dancing does not need to be complicated or intense.  I think we often fear that we cannot learn something that looks so challenging.  The truth is that dancing is very personal and how you choose to dance is entirely up to you!  There is a lot to be said for dancing in the privacy of your own home, while listening to some great music, alone or with a partner.  Abandon your reservations and let go.

As far as I am concerned, moving to any rhythm, musically or otherwise, is a form of dance.  RA can push us away from so many things we used to enjoy.  Dance need not be one of them.


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