Find fun, friends and fitness with the Westsyde Squares.

Find fun, friends and fitness with the Westsyde Squares.

Dance your way to your new favourite fitness activity

Westsyde Squares welcome new dancers for free square dance intro Sept. 13.

While some prefer the solitude of a lap pool or forest hike, there’s a lot to be said for the combination of music and movement in the quest for mental and physical wellness.

Add the company of new friends with a shared interest, and you have the makings of a fitness program you’ll want to stick with.

Not that square dancing is all about fitness, but that is a happy byproduct of this popular activity that’s kept Westsyde Squares dancers do-si-doing for 60 years.

And if you’re trying to reach Health Canada’s recommended 150 minutes of accumulated moderate to vigorous aerobic activity weekly to improve overall fitness and reduce the risk of chronic disease, a square dance session or two would get you well on your way.

1. Limber up. After dancing for years as a youngster, Mary Potter returned to square dancing as a way to keep moving through winter. Twisting and turning across the floor, she soon found herself more limber and moving easier in her daily life too.

2. Step lively! Counting steps as a part of your fitness routine? During a recent square dancing event, club president Lynda Bjalek counted a whopping 40,000 steps danced. Put another way, two hours of square dancing equals five miles walked. Additional benefits include increased lung capacity, improved balance and flexibility – invaluable at all ages.

3. Make it musical. There’s a reason people plug in a workout playlist before a run – music motivates. With a repertoire ranging from Lady Gaga to Broadway showstoppers, and 26-year-old musician Dustin McGifford as the group’s caller, your call to action is as close as the next dance.

4. Mental fitness. The Alzheimer Society of Canada notes that in addition to reducing risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes – all associated with increased risk of dementia – physical activity also pumps blood, nutrients and oxygen to the brain, helps reduce stress and improves mood. And while movement gets muscles and joints moving, learning new steps and listening to the caller’s instructions also limbers up the brain, Mary notes.

5. Get social. Social isolation is another risk factor for both mental and physical health concerns, and there’s no more social activity for singles or couples than square dancing. “It’s a team sport – you have seven other people in your square you’re working with.”

Learn more about Westsyde Squares at a free introductory session Sept. 13 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Westbank United Church Hall. Learn more at westsyde.squaredance.bc.ca.

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