Not going to lie — my parents and grandparents had weight problems.
My Dad was a 6'4" athlete (UNC football player), and my Mom was a 5'2" professional opera singer and voice teacher. While my athleticism and musicality were clearly inherited and are now featured by my vocation as a dancer and dance instructor, my DNA has me programmed for hard-core obesity.
Gifts and curses. That’s what we inherit.
Just look at your parents and grandparents if you want to know what aging has in store for you. You might see how they have triumphed over their aging processes or how they have suffered and succumbed to it.
Sometimes it is scary to see. Sometimes it is inspirational.
My Mother has profound dementia and horrible arthritis. She is in her 80’s and confined to a scooter.
My Dad, after a lifetime of often successful weight management efforts and a consistently good mind, sadly passed away in 2019 following an unsuccessful long-term recovery from aortic valve repair surgery.
My parents were only 23 and 24 when they had me — not a huge age difference between them and me. Again, sometimes it is scary to see, and sometimes it is inspirational.
What I notice is that when I do not dance, my joints get stiff. Even missing a single day is quite noticeable. There is something about dancing daily that keeps my arthritic joints mobile and pain-free.
Had my Mother been a dancer rather than a singer, would she be in less pain now? Now she just sits, confined to her scooter. Movement is a stranger to her.
My Dad fought the good fight, like I am doing. Quirky thing. In his 50’s and 60’s he was a runner and worked hard to keep his 250+ lb frame in shape. After he died in his 80’s, I literally had to have his bathroom repainted to cover where he had written his daily weight on his walls for years and years. He fought hard to keep that precious body of his in shape. I love him for that since his Father and older brother both died in their 50’s of heart attacks. My Dad gave us 30 additional years with him.
My Mom’s dementia is probably the scariest thing of all. Despite having a beautiful soprano voice that could fill a stadium without a microphone (that happened), a successful career as a professional singer and musician who single-handedly put on local musicals, and a chronic personal history of doing cross-word puzzles (which they say is supposed to delay dementia), she has it pretty bad. I’ve learned that life really is full-circle. You are a child — you are an adult — you are a child. Your parents take care of you and then you take care of them. My husband and I have 5 children. I really do not want them to have to take care of me one day.
They say dancing and quickly learning choreography can delay dementia. All I know is that our children are starting to get married and have children of their own, and I am needed on this earth, both physically and mentally for a long time still.
So I would say, the benefit of dancing for me personally, in addition to the weight management, anxiety management, social connection, and spiritual joy I’ve talked about in previous weeks, is that it provides me with my personal best shot at living the longest, most pain-free and healthy life I can live. I am hoping the mental gymnastics associated with the intricate choreography I create, memorize, and practice will help keep my mind sharp to the bitter end.
And finally, as I watch my children (most notably my girls), as well as my husband, my sister, my in-laws, and my dancer friends navigate their own lives, gifts, and DNA misfortunes, I hope to be the aging role model who inspires, not scares them. I want my 60-year-old dancer’s body and spirit to show them how they too can age in health.
Think about it.
Think about the example you are setting and about how you deserve to age beautifully, in full health. Maybe you’ve already figured out a decent strategy. If so, I salute you!
But do keep this in mind…
One of the greatest gifts you ever received was your training as a dancer.
It is your golden ticket.
If you want to start your graceful aging process now, by dancing with us, you are more than welcome to join the TDW family. I’ll include the links below and hope to see you in class.
Jules Szabo, founder of The Dancer’s Workout® (TDW) is a classically trained ballerina from the UNC School of the Arts and former corporate executive who helps busy working women, mothers, and empty nesters rediscover their love of dance. She specializes in the paraprofessional dancer (adult ballet, jazz, and contemporary dancers who are not beginners and not professionals, who simply love dance over other forms of exercise). Featured in Dance Magazine as one of the best dance programs online, The Dancer’s Workout® classes were designed to provide former dancers an emotionally and physically safe path back to dance and to help current adult dancers and dance instructors achieve their daily fitness goals through dance. If you are a current or former dancer, you are invited to come dance with us.
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