Professor Rafi Eldor, a Harvard professor of economics was diagnosed to have early Parkinson’s disease. His own research on this devastating disease convinced him that there was no good medicine to heal this disease apart from controlling its signs and symptoms that would continue to deteriorate with time. Realising this, he thought, “If medicine can only mask but not heal this devastating Parkinson’s disease, I shall try something else unconventional that might heal it.”
He took up dancing at the age of 54. Seven years later, when his disease was expected to progress and make him slow, stiff, stutter in his speech and shake with tremors or perhaps confined to bed, he proudly presented his admirable skill of graceful dancing to his dumbfounded audience.
Many years ago, I was first introduced to music therapy by an American therapist when I was a young medical student. Later, as a practising family physician, I began to wonder that if music could heal, dance could certainly heal better because dance is more than just music. It is music plus choreography and coordinated integration of the art of sound and body movement. It involves a lot of physical movements; exercising almost all groups of our muscles including our heart; stretching our tendons and ligaments: increasing blood flow to every part of our body and stimulating our nerves and brain continuously in tandem with good music and beautiful artistic body choreography.
Dancing stimulates lots of activities and induces changes in our body and mind – physically, mentally, chemically and spiritually. If music can heal the mind, dancing can heal both the mind and body better. Dancing is music therapy, physical therapy, mind therapy, touch therapy, group therapy, behavioural therapy all combined together. And mind you, dancing could be one of the more effective ANTI-AGEING therapy.
For years, scientists have been grappling to halt human ageing to no avail. Nevertheless, some have come to the realisation that ageing is a process that can be delayed together with all the ageing related diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
To date, there are enough studies done by dance therapists all over the world to demonstrate that dancing is beneficial to health and therapeutic to a range of medical problems.
One study was conducted to determine the effect on the rate of dementia by activities such as reading books, doing crossword puzzles, playing musical instruments, playing golf, walking for exercise, and dancing. The activity with the highest percentage of protection against dementia was frequent dancing. Dancing confers the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical. This is because dance therapy combines multiple areas of the brain to work together at once rather than just stimulating one area at a time.
Another study demonstrated that the effects of dance intervention were found to be therapeutic to psychiatric to participants and those who are emotionally disturbed. The psychiatric patients were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: a dance group in a traditional dance circle, a group that just listened to the music, and another group that rode stationary bikes without music but for the same time duration as the dance group. While all three conditions lessened or stabilised the condition of the patients, the results showed that the dance group benefited the most from the dance intervention, with less depression and more vitality than the other groups. This study shows that physical activity or listening to music alone is less beneficial; the combining of the two into dance is the most beneficial towards conferring a better therapeutic value.
As a columnist in Good Times2, I have been trying to brand exercise as the ‘magic pill’ for good health. Dancing is a special exercise that is beautiful, enjoyable, therapeutic, and anti-ageing. It is a superb healthy lifestyle! Thus, it would be appropriate to introduce it as a ‘lovely sweet magic pill’.
Being aware of the immense benefits of dancing as a healthy lifestyle with many health benefits including its great potential of conferring anti-ageing effects that can potentially delay the onset of many ageing-related diseases, recently I initiated a good discussion with a dance trainer to look into the possibility of organising a dance session that caters to the middle-aged population.
I raised the possibility of designing a dance with music and choreography that could possibly mesmerise the mind of the participating dancers to the extent that they get absorbed into it and go into some form of a trance-like state that is spiritually uplifting, enjoyable, de-stressing, therapeutic, health enhancing, as well as slowing down the ageing process. To me, if the Hindu ‘kavadi’ carriers of the Thaipusam celebration can dance in a trance-like state with knives and hooks piercing their body without feeling any pain or suffering, modern dance then should explore the possibility of inducing such a mental state through a skillfully designed music-choreography combination for the benefit of many. This could be a great alternative to ‘getting high’ from the menace of cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol, etc.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defined human health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. If you take a closer look at this definition, you will understand why, as a family physician, I am promoting dancing. If there is one activity that can truly promote a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being beyond the absence of diseases, it would be none other than the ‘lovely sweet magic pill’ – dancing.
Seriously, I am looking at promoting health beyond the absence of diseases. Indeed, curing is my profession, healing is my passion. While I help cure many from their diseases, I actually spend lots of time counselling them to prevent themselves from getting sick. That is the bonus therapeutic value that I have been offering to all my patients.
Always remember what I have been saying all this while in my columns: health is largely what we eat and how we live our life. Why can’t we eat healthily and dance gracefully at the same time along the journey of our life towards good health and longevity?
Dance therapists and middle-aged adults interested in dancing for good health may message me at m.me/bhclinic1
My next column will be on ‘Meditation – Ancient art for modern mind’.
Dr. Victor Ti, MD, MFAM (Malaysia), FRACGP (Australia), Dip P Dermatology (UK), Dip STDs/AIDS (Thailand), Dip. AARAM (USA), LCP of Aesthetic Med.(Malaysia) is an experienced expat specialist generalist (Family Physician) of BH Clinic, Phnom Penh. As a specialist generalist, he is skillful at diagnosing all general diseases and excluding the sinister ones. Apart from the general diseases, Dr. Victor is also known for his skills in skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, minor surgery and aesthetic medicine. He can be contacted via email [email protected] Tel: 023900446 or Whatsapp: +60164122977