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Dancing for Your Health: Tips for Safe Activity and Injury Prevention

July 10, 2018 11:00 AM with Doctor

You don’t have to have ten years of dance training to use movement as a way to get exercise. Whether it's ballet or zumba, your body will be feeling the benefits while you can have some serious fun, but it’s important to know how to stay safe. If you’re looking to get dancing, take some time to chat with a NorthShore Primary Care Sports Medicine doctor. She’ll be sharing tips for how to use dance and movement as forms of exercise and recreation safely, how to prevent injuries and what to do when injuries occur.

Colie (Moderator) - 11:00 AM:
Our chat about dancing for your health is now open. You can submit your questions within the next hour.

Carrie Jaworski (NorthShore) - 11:01 AM:
Hi everyone. This is Dr. Carrie Jaworski, Head of Primary Care Sports Medicine at NorthShore. I am ready to answer your questions on Dance Medicine and how to safely use dance as a form of exercise.

  Lindsey (Park Ridge, IL) - 11:01 AM:
I take Zumba at my gym but my feet always hurt afterwards. Should I get different shoes?
Carrie Jaworski (NorthShore)
Hi Lindsay, If your feet are hurting, it may be your shoes or the floor you are doing the Zumba on. If the floor is an actual dance or aerobics floor, then I would look at your shoes. I usually recommend new shoes about every 6 months if you are doing Zumba a few times a week.

  Sue (Kenosha, WI) - 11:05 AM:
I am interested in learning about what are the best stretches to do after a dance workout?
Carrie Jaworski (NorthShore)
Hi Sue, Dance typically uses a lot of our large muscles in the legs and hips, so I advise focusing on stretching the hips, gluts, quadriceps/hamstrings (thighs), calves and arches. If you are doing more ballroom type dance, the neck and shoulders get worked as well so don't forget to stretch them as well. For a good overall stretch, sit with your legs in a butterfly position and gently press legs out as far as it comfortable. Another one is to sit with your legs out in front of you, then take one leg across the other with a bent knee and hug it into your chest while turning your upper body towards that leg.

  Monica (Des Plaines, IL) - 11:11 AM:
My daughter is going to start pointe class soon. Is there anything I should do to help prepare her and prevent injuries?
Carrie Jaworski (NorthShore)
Great question Monica! In my practice, we do a pointe readiness screen to look at a dancer's core strength, balance and technique. Many times, there are some deficits that will put the dancer at risk if not addressed ahead of time. Her studio should have done a similar assessment and she should have at least a year of pre-pointe work that includes band work to strengthen the feet prior to being allowed to progress to pointe. I would also make sure that your daughter is mentally prepared for the work involved with this level of dance. Pointe work if done correctly is safe, but often times we see injuries from poor technique or poor fitting shoes in a dancer who is not physically ready for this level. A quick way to check is to have her stand on one leg in an airplane position (yoga move) and see if she can do three knee bends without falling over, or balance on releve with her eyes closed for 30 seconds. Better yet, she can come see me! :)

  Jake (Waukegan, IL) - 11:19 AM:
Can I count dancing while doing housework as dance exercise?
Carrie Jaworski (NorthShore)
Hi Jake, You are in luck! The newest guidelines on exercise state that ALL movement counts towards our daily goal of 150 minutes of exercise per week for adults. We used to say that you would have to do 30 minutes of continuous exercise, then we decreased it to 10, now every minute counts. Ideally, we move throughout our day, so I think dancing while cleaning is a great way to sneak some more movement in. Be sure to think about the muscles you are using while dancing/cleaning to get a better workout. Perhaps do some plies/deep knee bends while picking up things and do some arm curls with the laundry basket to engage the muscles more.

  Angie (Morton Grove, IL) - 11:24 AM:
I have bad knees and used to dance, but I really want to start again. What kind of dance should I do? Anything I should do to prevent knee pain?
Carrie Jaworski (NorthShore)
Hi Angie, If by bad knees you mean arthritis, then I would avoid any type of movements that are high impact (some aerobic dance) or that require you to squat really low so that your knees are below your hips such as in a grand plie. Most dance doesn't require these two movements, so you should be good to do the type of dance you enjoy. You can also wear compression sleeves on your knees when you start out to give the knees some support and ALWAYS ice your knees afterwards to prevent any swelling from accumulating. Enjoy!

  Nicole (Fox Lake, IL) - 11:30 AM:
I used to dance years ago but now I do mainly HIIT workouts. What do I need to do to prepare for when I want to get back in to dance? I'm thinking of taking a hip hop class.
Carrie Jaworski (NorthShore)
Hi Nicole, Good for you! The HIIT workouts should have prepared you for the cardiovascular demands of something like a hip hop class. I would be careful with the overall types of movements in hip hop since they are more quick/aggressive in nature. Depending how long it has been, you might be stiffer than when you danced previously. We see more back and knee issues along with ankle sprains. Be sure to warm up thoroughly before class by doing some light cardio and then stretching the low back, hips and legs and also always review techniques at a slower pace before trying things full out. Knee pads are a good idea as well as supportive shoes.

  Mary (Glenview, Il) - 11:36 AM:
Is it safe to combine dancing with long distance running in my exercise routines?
Carrie Jaworski (NorthShore)
Hi Mary, I am a huge fan of cross training so doing two different types of exercise is a good thing. That being said, I would be careful as to what type of dance. For you, I think adding a lengthening type of dance such as ballet or classical ballroom would be an excellent choice as most of my long distance runners are very tight in their hamstrings, calves, etc. Doing high impact type dance such as hip hop or zumba would be less than ideal as it would be stressing the joints in a similar way to running. Either way, make sure you pick something that you enjoy and if you pick the high impact dance, just give yourself time to recover between that and your running. Perhaps add a pilates or gentle yoga class in there for recovery. Hope that helps!

  Norman (Schaumburg, IL) - 11:42 AM:
What’s a good dance style to start with if I don’t really exercise?
Carrie Jaworski (NorthShore)
Hi Norman, Honestly, the best type of dance is the type that you like the best. This way, you are more likely to stick with it. I would suggest trying out a few styles to see what you like. Do you like a certain type of music? If you like jazz, then maybe a swing type of dance or if you like country music, then line dancing might be your thing. The only thing that matters is that you have fun and get moving, the steps will come with time. I suggest a class for beginners as well. That way, you will be with people in a similar situation. Good luck!

  Stacy (Vernon Hills, IL) - 11:48 AM:
I remember watching Dancing with the Stars and they broke down how much each contestant was burning. It seemed like a lot! How many calories does dancing burn?
Carrie Jaworski (NorthShore)
Hi Stacy, Tough question! The number of calories you burn depends on how hard you are dancing as well as how much you weigh and your body composition. In general, moderate dancing for an hour burns somewhere between 350-410 calories depending on your weight with someone who weighs less being on the low end and the person who weighs more being on the high end. If the goal is weight loss, you need to burn more calories than you consume. 1 lb = 3500 calories so you would need a deficit of 3500 calories to loss one pound. That should be done at a rate of about 1-2 lbs per week in order to be safe and keep the weight off. Anything quicker is usually more related to water loss and dehydration, not true weight loss.

  Kristi (Northfield, IL) - 11:55 AM:
I already do Zumba but feel like I should also do other kinds of workouts. What should I do in addition to dancing?
Carrie Jaworski (NorthShore)
Hi Kristi, I recommend that all my dancers/patients include some form of strength training in their routines. I am not sure if your classes already include that, but if they don't, you should aim to do some form of strength training 2x/week. We are finding more adults with extremely poor muscle strength. This leads to an increased risk of falls as you age along with other injuries. By building muscle strength, you also increase your metabolism because muscle burns calories 24 hours a day which is a nice bonus! You can do either free weights, machines or exercise bands. All are good.

Colie (Moderator) - 11:59 AM:
That will be the end of our chat. Thank you for all of your questions and thank you Dr. Jaworski for your insights!

Carrie Jaworski (NorthShore) - 12:00 PM:
Thank you everyone for participating. I hope this was helpful. If I can ever be of assistance, I see patients at both Glenbrook and our Lake Shore Drive offices within the Dept of Orthopedics. Have a great day!

Colie (Moderator) - 12:00 PM:
For more information about dance medicine or sports medicine, or to speak to a specialist like Dr. Jaworski, please contact the NorthShore Sports Medicine department.

This chat has ended.

Thank you very much for your participation.