Dancing Your Way to Good Health

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Tina Baltimore, in blue, leads line dancing group. (Photo: Larry Dalton)

Tina Baltimore, in blue, leads the Soul Line Dancers. (Photo: Larry Dalton)

Health professionals have long exalted exercise as beneficial in helping control weight and lowering blood sugar levels. It also lowers one's risk of heart disease, a condition that is common in people with diabetes. Exercise can also help you feel better about yourself and improve your overall health.

Dancing is a recommended form of exercise that can come in many styles, low or high impact or aerobic, classical, modern, hip hop, folk, or many more.  One relatively new dance style, "Soul Line Dancing," has fast become a favorite of African Americans, young and old.

In South Sacramento, several groups of dancers are meeting weekly to learn new dance routines, share nutritious snacks, lose weight, and enjoy socializing to R&B tunes. Here are a few local dance enthusiasts who are benefiting from the routines, but enjoying themselves as well:Tina Baltimore, Age 55 - A few years ago, Tina Baltimore started attending a local club to join others in the line dancing routines. Soon after, at a reception for the American Heart Association's "Power to End Stroke" event, she heard people give testimonies about how exercise, healthy eating, and dancing had changed their lives for the better. "I was so inspired by these people that I decided then and there to learn more about the benefits of fitness and healthier eating so I could make a difference in my and others lives," she recalls.

Fast approaching 50 years old and experiencing the symptoms of menopause, "I was sitting and watching Law and Order on TV, waiting for diabetes to knock on my door," Baltimore related. "My family is at high risk for alcoholism, obesity, diabetes and diseases related to smoking," she added. Soon after that revelation, Baltimore was invited to instruct line dancing classes at the Touch of Class Nightclub on Stockton Boulevard. Three years later, on any class night, anywhere from 30 to 50 people, mostly over the age of 30, eagerly anticipate learning new dance steps or just practicing the older dance routines.

Jesse James, Age 69  - When Jesse James started his dance career with "Tina B and the Sacramento Soul Line Dancers" almost 3 years ago, he could barely complete one dance routine without feeling stiffness and pain from degenerative knee disease. Now the 69- year-old is able to dance for the full two hour class, looks like a hip hop dancer on the floor, and is no longer taking medication for Type 2 diabetes. "After losing more than 85 pounds, exercising at the gym, riding my bicycle and dancing, I can now cross my legs, run up the stairs, and I'm not even bothered with sleep apnea anymore," he says.

James is one of a growing number of African-American adults who has taken control of his health by regularly exercising to line dance steps created from music by soul singing greats such as Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, and Mary J. Blige. A recent study by a group of nurses from the University of Akron determined that dancing two times a week can produce significant blood pressure and body fat changes in individuals, which can improve diabetes outcomes and overall health.

Jerald DeWayne "JD" Sanders - Instructor, age 61 - JD Sanders always liked to dance and do the Cha Cha, but couldn't find anywhere to practice his steps on a regular basis. "I always considered myself shy, but Tina made me take over a class one night and now I teach at two locations three nights a week. This is a great way for me to exercise again. Before the economy slowed down, I was a professional mover. I'm too old to play basketball, so now I dance," he said.

Sanders knows dancing has considerably improved his health and balance. "Dancing re-teaches your brain to remember things and your body to move again. The low impact cardio is good for my torn meniscus in my left knee. It's also great for socialization.  I met my girlfriend while dancing," he beams.

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About Sharon Chandler

I am the single, African American mother of two college graduates. My son is an Assistant District Attorney in San Diego and my daughter is a training professional with a Master’s degree in Sociology. I am proud of all our accomplishments and for the past ten years have used my experiences to motivate and guide parents and students in my nonprofit, Yes2Kollege Education Resources, where I train families to prepare early for college. Most of my work has been in South Sacramento, since moving here 20 years ago. I know the people and I know the issues, and I have always been involved in trying to help the area move forward. I am especially interested in disparities in employment, education and health that minorities experience daily. In this blog, in the next few weeks, I will share stories with you on the many health- related projects in South Sacramento. I will also share my own personal experiences and perspective on community activities, colorful characters, and solutions and challenges to surviving in our economically depressed state capitol. Not all is gloom and doom, as most know, when times get tougher our human instinct is to regroup, reinvent and rededicate ourselves to regaining or improving our former quality of life. I look forward to keeping you up on how we are doing.

Comments (1)

  1. Rm Parker says:

    I really enjoyed this post! Dancing is so important to good health, both mental and physical. I look forward to reading more posts from our new correspondent. Welcome!