Lydia Crosland, a Connections Support Worker at Carers Leeds shares how dancing can bring many benefits to carers. And how to get started without any previous dancing experience! Try something new today - we might discover a new passion!
Every year I watch Strictly Come Dancing with a cup of tea and think, “I wish I could do that!” While we can’t all master the splits, we can all dance in a way that feels good to us.
Maybe we enjoyed going to a dance class before our caring role took up that time? Perhaps we have never danced before but always wondered how to do the waltz?
Dance is a great way for us to look after our physical and mental health – both of which tend to be often
neglected by those of us in caring roles.
Here's 10 reasons dance can be a great support in our caring role:
1. Reduce stress
We all know that being a carer can be stressful and trying to switch off can feel impossible. One way of quickly boosting our mood is popping on the radio and dancing round the kitchen. Go at it alone, or invite family or friends to boogie with us – FaceTime a friend and surprise them with our favourite song.
Take a trip down memory lane and discover long lost favourite tracks with BBC Music Memories. We can even create a playlist of the songs that get our toes tapping.
2. Meet new people
Taking part in a group activity is a great way to meet some new people. Join a beginner’s dance class and everyone will be in the same boat and once we’re all confused over the same step, smiles and laughter can quickly turn into new friendships.
It’s miraculous how many people find time for a quick cuppa and slice of cake afterwards. If we find it nerve wracking
joining something new, we can call the teacher beforehand so we’ll know a familiar voice. Or take a friend!
We can find out if there are dance classes in our own local areas, often run by our local carers support service. For example, Carers Leeds has partnered with Yorkshire Dance to take part in their Dance On dance classes for carers over 50.
3. Hit our step count
If we track our steps, we will know some days it feels like we’ve barely moved, especially if our caring role means we can’t always get outside for a long walk. Dancing is a fun way towards reaching that goal of 10,000 steps per day. Whether a class in a studio, on Zoom or having a twirl with the kids, it all helps to reach our step goal.
4. Practice self-love
Of course, we all look great even with those extra lockdown pounds, it’s just part of life! But if we are feeling lethargic and want to show our body some love, dance is a great way to start feeling healthier.
5. Get talking
Taking a dance class by ourselves might feel too much at the moment, but it can be a great conversation starter too. Check out some of the live streams and YouTube videos from world-famous dance companies like The Royal Opera House or Sadler’s Wells Theatre.
Why not organise a viewing party with friends and all watch at the same time, then share our thoughts after the performance. That might help us make it through until the next Strictly Come Dancing in the Autumn!
6. Take time for ourselves
As carers, ‘me time’ can feel like the last thing on a long to do list. Making a regular commitment to a dance class can help build some much-needed ‘me time’ into our week. Afterwards, we can jump back into a hectic day feeling calmer and ready to take on any new challenges.
7. Go at our own pace
We aren’t always blessed with the best weather in drizzly Britain. Luckily, dance is mainly enjoyed inside so it can be a year-round hobby! If our caring role means it is easier to join in at home, lots of dance teachers teach classes online. Most are taught over Zoom or YouTube, perhaps the people we live with will want to join in too! Try Oti Mabuse’s Family Dance Workout Party.
Some carer organisations run seated dance classes, which are great if we have mobility challenges. We’re able to get an upper body workout to music.
8. Stay supple
Dance helps with agility, flexibility and stamina. As we get older and begin to move less, daily activities can start to feel like more effort – even walking up the stairs can seem like a challenge for some! The warm-ups and cool downs in a dance class carefully prepare our body for movement, and regular stretches have lasting benefits for our flexibility. Doing the warm-up every morning might mean we can touch our toes again one day soon!
9. Give our brain a workout
Research has shown that dance can improve cognitive skills in older people and even improve our memory and if we’re still young, we can keep that memory sharp! Learn more about the topic here.
10. Most importantly, enjoy ourselves
The life of a carer is full of responsibilities – planning lists, making appointments and running errands.
Give ourselves permission to have some fun on a regular basis and we’ll be surprised at the positive impact it can have on our life. Who knows, we might discover a whole new passion!
Join our virtual cuppas which run from Monday to Friday for laughs, a fun chat and real deep conversations! If that is too big a step, visit our Facebook community to connect with other unpaid carers.
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About the author
Lydia Crosland is Connections Support Worker at Carers Leeds.