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  • Writer's pictureCRAIG BRYAN

Dance, Martial Arts and More: The Healing Power of Movement

We love sharing stories about people over 50 who find a new lease on life through exercise.

And this one is special because the miracles of movement came as a surprise.

Susan Palmer (above in the white shirt) wasn’t looking for relief from the chronic pain that plagued her for years after surgery to treat breast cancer. She just thought a dance class looked like a fun way to get in shape after retirement in her 60s.

“I wanted an exercise program I would enjoy, and I just loved this right from the start,” she recalls. “One day in our cool-down, I discovered that I could comfortably do a stretch I haven't been able to do since breast cancer treatment 11 years ago. I was shocked. I have no idea when in this process my muscles and tendons limbered up sufficiently to release what I always figured was unreleasable.”

She credits the energy and wisdom of instructor Dael Parsons, who teaches Nia, a combination of dance, martial and healing arts, outdoors when Oregon weather permits.

Susan’s story shows the power of determination, even amid all the inconvenience of the pandemic. And it proves that the benefits of exercise and purposeful movement can come through any activity we enjoy – whether it’s dancing, martial arts, weightlifting, running, or anything else that puts a smile on our face.

Dancing, Martial Arts and More

You’ve probably heard us talk about how powerful yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi are, particularly for people over 50. Like them, dancing and martial arts are great exercise for cardio endurance, building muscle tone, and agility. Plus, they require us to think while we’re working out, which improves brain health and memory.

Instructor Dael was a massage therapist who specialized in working with fascia, the body’s connective tissue. She focuses on movement to improve scars from surgeries, like Susan’s, and emotional trauma.

Iowa fitness instructor Beth Pelton has that state’s largest Nia practice and loves what it does for her and for her clients.

“There’s so much power in movement – and also psychologically, too,” Beth says. “It’s a great way to help people have more fitness and mobility,” even if they perform the exercises from a bed or chair.

Any Movement Is Good Movement

Whatever kind of exercise you choose, make sure it’s something you enjoy. And don’t let any nerves keep you on the couch. We’re here to make it easy, safe, fun – and effective.

“I’m not a great dancer,” says Susan. “But after a couple of years of doing this, I feel more confident in my body. I like how dance moves morph into martial arts -- throwing punches, blocking moves, kicking moves -- then into healing moves that are somewhat yoga-ish. And the music is a great mix of new age, world, a little hip hop, all just wonderful.”

Her participation in the class has led to more activity – weekly Zumba classes, daily walking, and frequent bike and kayak trips.

Here's what I learned about exercise because of this class,” Susan says. “It's stupid to do exercise that you don't enjoy.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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