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I know what you’re thinking, “A family dance party? That sounds ridiculous!” You're right, it is nothing short of ridiculous. However, it’s also a fun, health promoting habit you just may want to consider as a way to bring your family together to make wellness work.
How Our Dance Parties Came To Be
When I wrote my Master’s thesis on sedentary behavior I learned how important it is to incorporate short bursts of movement throughout our entire day. A huge takeaway from my analysis was that most Americans spend way too much time sitting during the evening hours. We may sit to enjoy a meal, relax, converse with a loved one, or to tackle homework. Add on some screen time and the amount of time spent sitting quickly adds up, along with health deteriorating effects. This got my husband and I thinking about ways we might help our kids incorporate movement into their evening routine to help imprint it as a healthy habit for life.
A “quick and simple” daily habit, in theory…
Many experts highlight the benefits of going for an after dinner walk. Our family has found this to be a pretty simple way to move together, even if some nights it lasts only fifteen minutes, requires an intermission at the park, and is ridiculously slow if our daughter wants to walk too.
(may also require a cape)
Unfortunately, our walking routine was A LOT easier to keep when we lived in gorgeous, always 65°, Monterey, CA. We now live in Maryland, the land of windy winters and humid, bug-filled summers. Ever since my daughter got blown over at the park we’ve had a bit of a wind issue, not to mention my kids (and husband) are just not made for the heat! Most recently, we’ve had a spring filled with storms. Not exactly ideal walking weather. Luckily, this winter we experimented with others ways to make after dinner movement work. We’ve run “races” throughout our house, enjoyed epic light saber battles, and started the wildly popular and successful family dance party. It’s amazing the moves kids (and grandparents) can bust out! Dance parties are now one of our favorite ways to get in some movement, especially on long, rainy days. Here are 5 surprising benefits that might make you want to move and groove in the evening too.
5 Reasons To Get Your Dance On
1. A much needed brain break.
Odds are your family just experienced a day jam-packed with school, work, and all sorts of stimulating activities. Rather than jumping right into homework or reading, make time to release some pent up energy through unstructured, creative movement.
2. Tap into your inner genius.
Speaking of homework, did you know physical activity stimulates parts of the brain responsible for problem solving? The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report concluded even a single episode of physical activity can improve executive functions like our ability to plan, organize, and initiate tasks. Other benefits include improved memory, processing speed, attention, and academic performance. Our family will take all of the above, please!
3. Promote athleticism.
Are you raising the next generation of little athletes, or perhaps looking to tap into some muscle memory from your glory days? Dancing is movement that takes place in all planes of motion. It activates functional movement patterns that are often neglected in typical day-to-day activities like sitting at a desk, walking, and riding in a car.
Fun Fact: Some of the best pro athletes incorporate dance in their training program to develop agility, flexibility, coordination, and neuromuscular control. One of my former pro clients went so far as to minor in dance in college. I must say, his end zone dance was particularly graceful!
4. Release feel good endorphins and prevent meltdowns.
When your family is busy dancing like there’s no tomorrow everyone’s amazing moves are guaranteed to result in smiles and laughter. As an added bonus, kids who are given even just one daily opportunity for physical activity have demonstrated an improved ability to self-monitor behaviors and control emotions. I don’t know about your house, but emotions can run high in the evening hours! Movement has been a great way to help our family destress, regulate emotions, and feel good.
5. Prevent chronic disease.
We may not think of chronic disease so much when our kids are little, but regular short bursts of movement have awesome preventive effects. We know that a single bout of physical activity can reduce blood pressure, improve sleep, reduce anxiety symptoms, and improve cognition on the day it is performed. Experts at Diabetes Self Management.com recently shared a study that found real-life attempts to increase physical activity can be effective at improving insulin sensitivity and reducing risk for type 2 diabetes, regardless of other lifestyle factors and body type. What seems like a simple, fun activity truly can help set our kids up for a lifetime of good health.
Having trouble getting into it?
Honestly, it took my combat aviator husband a little while to jump on board. We found using Pandora to find kid-friendly versions of some of our favorite adult songs has helped us bring more enthusiasm to the party. Also, I personally enjoy searching for songs from Disney movies I enjoyed as a kid so I can impress the crowd by knowing all the words. However, I’m sure the family dance party isn’t appealing to everyone.
Bottom line: However you choose to move, enjoy it!
What are some ways your family might enjoy some light evening movement? I encourage you to play off of the interests of your kids and work to find ways to make after dinner movement an everyday habit. Feel free to share your ideas below or post a picture of your family moving on Instagram using #teamvalentineproject.
Together, we can take small steps that create a resilient foundation of health and happiness.
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Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report. Retrieved from https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/report.aspx