3 New Ways To Get Active
 
The cooler fall season, when anticipation of “going back to school” lingers in your mind no matter what your age, is the ideal time to learn something new. If you’re looking for a new way to stay active, these ideas are more fun than hitting the gym, and are good for body and mind. Remember, the only way to discover a sport or activity you like enough to stick with throughout the year is to try it!
 
1. Ballroom Dancing
Ballroom dancing originated in France and then spread throughout Europe in the 1800s. It may have begun as acceptable social interaction between the sexes, but, its health benefits are amazing! Dance students have experienced weight loss, increased flexibility, enhanced youthfulness, endurance, and strength, better posture, more grace, lower blood pressure, more self-confidence, and a positive mood. It’s also a fun way to meet new people!
 
Arthur Murray Dance Centre franchisee owner Sheryle Gallivan says they teach every social dance including Foxtrot, Cha Cha, Salsa, Rumba, Tango, Swing, Waltz, Quickstep and Bolero (she has three locations in BC’s Lower Mainland; the organization has over 280 studios in 22 countries). And you can start out with no experience at any age and continue right to competitive levels of dancesport.
 
Sheryle states, “Our eldest student began at 89 and danced regularly until she was 101, but most of our dancers are 40 to 65. Depending on your age and goals, its takes about six months of one-per-week lessons before ‘natural use’ begins to develop so that you enjoy yourself on the dance floor.” In that time, you’ll learn six different dances and three or four basic “patterns” (dance step sequences) required to look and feel competent. After that, you will hone your skills at timing and “styling” (how dancing fits the music) such as specific hip action, light or heavy stepping, and smooth-and-slow or rise-and-fall movements.
 
2. Tai Chi
Tai Chi was created by a Chinese Taoist monk based in martial arts. But since it involves slow, focused movements and deep breathing, it has a meditative quality that relaxes the mind. Tai chi has many benefits: students have experienced improved mood, sounder sleep, increased strength, flexibility and mental cognition, pain reduction, better balance, and fewer symptoms if they have chronic conditions like fibromyalgia or arthritis.
 
Brad Wyatt, tai chi instructor for over 30 years on Vancouver’s North Shore, says depending on the type of class chosen, you can experience results on your first day. He states, “Tai chi has been called a ‘moving meditation’ because you closely focus attention on what you are doing with each movement. Since you’re standing for the entire class, feeling comfortable, and working within your own physical/health limits is important.”
 
Learning tai chi “forms,” a sequence of movements that mimic self-defence positions, take practice, but once learned, you can do these postures (and the often-accompanying qi gong movements and breathing exercises) on your own. Many facilities from martial arts/meditation studios to recreation centres teach tai chi. Instructors may gear classes toward beginners, relaxation or martial arts so choose appropriately.
 
3. Pilates
Although many people think of Pilates as an alternative to yoga classes for low-impact exercise, classical Pilates is very different; it is based in rehabilitation while providing a whole-body workout. Pilates stabilizes your muscles to improve your posture and increase overall strength while lengthening tight, constricted areas. (Physical trainer Joseph Pilates developed Pilates in the 1920s to rehabilitate soldiers returning from war.)
 
Risa Mathews, who has owned Boditree Pilates & Healing in Vancouver since 1999, says the classical Pilates she teaches, performed with and without equipment, is based on individual needs, not one-size-fits-all classes. She says after the first session, you’ll become acutely aware of muscle imbalances in your body that need correcting.
 
Within classical Pilates studios, after being assessed by a practitioner and given a customized workout to address imbalances/vulnerabilities, you’ll see marked results in strength, postural alignment and flexibility within 10 sessions. Risa states, “You need to take the time to learn proper fundamental movements under supervision to ensure safety and get results. It’s not about doing a particular sequence of exercises, but about what your body’s needs and fitness level are — whether you’re addressing low back pain, neck tension, athletic injuries, are post-surgery or prenatal, have a condition such as Parkinson’s or rheumatoid arthritis, or are just beginning a fitness regime.”

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