‘Dance can help prevent Hypertension, Diabetes and other chronic diseases’
The importance of dancing as an exercise to keep diseases at bay was recently highlighted when physiotherapists under the umbrella of the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP) recognised music maestro, King Sunny Ade, in Ondo State as a Worthy Ambassador of the profession
Although many people love dancing at social functions, not many are aware that they could use such a cheap tool to prolong their lives and avoid debilitating diseases.
However, because of the prevalence of non-communicable diseases among Nigerians, experts have begun to explore the possible benefits of dance to reducing the tide of hypertension, diabetes among other deadly diseases.
Speaking with The Guardian on the issue, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Medical Rehabilitation, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Dr. Chidozie Mbada, stated that the importance of dance to healthy living can never be over-emphasised.
“Dance is a mode of physical activity that traverses most known limitations and it appeals to a wide range of persons across all age brackets, shapes and sizes. Dance as a subset of physical activity assumes various forms, and it can be performed in different settings. It is inexpensive and does not necessarily entail use of equipment. Therefore, in the context of scarce resources for health care, dance might be a significant promoter of physical function, health, and well-being. Dancing is a more appealing form of physical activity in a context where engagement in exercises is not a culture, given its association to everyday life, its inherent fun, its sense of enjoyment and social interaction, and the feelings of mobility and physicalness. Typically, dance is akin to aerobic exercise and it may bring about benefits commonly linked with physical fitness.”
The physiotherapist continued: “Research, especially from the western world, are analysing dance composites and its health effects. Available evidence shows that dance has considerable physical benefits for middle-aged and elderly individuals with musculoskeletal health conditions (such as arthritis and osteoporosis), cardiovascular and neurological conditions, as well as help weight control and management, and also to improve psycho-social health.
“African dance is in a spectacular class of its own Kinaesthetically, African dance is a total-body workout which entails total body movements, eccentric and concentric muscles works, and psycho-social expressions. Often times, African dance is a physical and emotional dialogue induced by the music. Although, health effect specific to African dance is sparse in scientific literature, African dance remains an enjoyable way to promote physical activity and fitness. Similar to or even more than other forms of dance with empirical results of their health benefits, African dance may stimulate a wide range of physical and mental benefits including: improved cardiovascular efficiency and aerobic fitness, increased physical fitness (muscular strength and endurance), better balance, co-ordination and spatial awareness, reduced risk of osteoporosis, weight management, increased physical confidence and general psychological wellbeing, as well as better social skills. Dance for health is significant in the prevention, treatment and management of a number of health conditions, as it is important for physical and mental health.”
Mbada stated that dance could be a factor why Juju music legend, King Sunny Ade has remained young and healthy even at the age of 70.
In recognition of such possibility, physiotherapists under the umbrella of the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP) recently gave award to the music maestro in Ondo State as a Worthy Ambassador of the profession and as an African dance icon per excellence.
Commenting on the relevance of the award, NSP President, Dr Taiwo Oyewumi, stated that, “The NSP reckons with King Sunny Ade’s agility and physical physique that represent some of the outcomes of our intervention. His music and dancing skills make him an exemplary personality in healthy living. We recognise him as a worthy ambassador and friend to physiotherapy profession.”
Dr Fatai Maruf of the Department of Medical Rehabilitation, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, agreed that dance might have kept the music legend healthy. “King Sunny Ade, an iconic Juju maestro, is an embodiment of social and cultural dance, spanning over five decades. His mastery and magical dexterity at displaying this high-level and coordinated performance is well-known to all and sundry. Of course, the King of Juju may not be doing it specifically for health benefit, perhaps for the love and passion for it. Apart from the attendant financial rewards that naturally follow pursuing one’s passion, it is important to know that King Sunny Ade may be enjoying, the unparalleled and graceful health among his peers, providentially, perhaps subconsciously, due to his physical performance through dance,” Maruf said.
The medical rehabilitation expert advised thus: “For those of us who admire this internationally-acclaimed music icon, not only for his musical talent and genius, but also for his good health, it will be important to emulate his lifestyle of physical activity. It does not have to necessarily be through dance, but can also be in other forms like jogging, cycling, strolling, gardening, rope skipping, engaging in domestic chores and so on. However, dance has one benefit over the others in that it can be incorporated into our social, religious and cultural life if any of these comes regularly enough to meet the required frequency per week. Otherwise, personal or individual dimension may have to be added, and this can occur in the comfort of the home with or without the family members.”
Maruf explained that “dance is the most fundamental of the arts, involving direct expression through the body,” adding that “it is an intimate and powerful medium for therapy and it is a hobby that many people take a lot of interest in, learn early in life and use it all-through their lives.”
Dance, Maruf said, should not be taken for granted. “Dance is a form of physical activity that involves coordinated movement of body parts- mainly leg, trunk, hip and arms- by contracting relevant skeletal muscles of the body. People engage in dance for cultural, social and religion reasons. However, one can dance for personal reasons out of passion or for health purposes,” the physiotherapist said.
Does dance have health benefits? Maruf said yes.
“Health benefits of dance have been well-documented. Reports abound on the cognitive and psychological benefits of regular dance,” Maruf explained, adding that “recent studies have consistently found improvement in psychological, physical and social relationship dimensions of quality of life. In addition, regular dance has been shown to be effective in the management of hypertension in terms of modest but clinically-significant reduction in blood pressure, reduction in number of antihypertensive drugs required to achieve blood-pressure control and improvement in blood-pressure control rate compared to those who do not engage in regular dance. Although, effects of regular dance on a number of diseases have not been explored, being a form of physical activity, it is believed that it also confers beneficial effects on chronic diseases similar to what have been reported for other forms of physical activities. Thus, chronic diseases such as diabetes, dyslipidemia can be prevented or managed with dance. Being a mild-impact physical activity, regular dance can help prevent osteoporosis, maintain flexibility and endurance in the muscle, and prevent obesity or maintain a desirable body weight and image.”
On what should be the intensity of dancing to harness the health benefits, Maruf said: “Dance is a moderate-intensity form of physical activity. It is required to make the performer sweat mildly by having just beads of sweat on the body but not necessarily to have sweat running profusely on the body. Furthermore, it is expected to make the performer breathe moderately hard such that he or she will still be able to make conversation while dancing without fragmenting sentences. In addition, to achieve health benefits from dance, it has to be performed most days of the week (five days per week), if not every day. At the very least, it should be performed three days per week. Performance on any day should record a cumulative duration of at least 40 minutes. This duration can be achieved at two to four bouts of no less than 10 minutes.”