Partner Dancing Benefits the Brain and Body

From my article in UCLA Healthy Years.  For more health news, check out University Health News.

Stimulate neurons and improve mood when dancing with others.

If you’re looking to meet new people, get a little exercise and do something for your brain, consider partner dancing.

164580_1535127340096_4345456_n-2“Social dancers are some of the most welcoming, supportive people out there,” says Lora Wilson, board certified dance therapist at the UCLA Arts and Healing Social Emotional Arts program. “Most classes are set up so that partners change regularly. So if you don’t have a partner, you can go by yourself and you will meet and dance with many people over the course of a night.”

Partner dances include everything from traditional ballroom, such as waltz, foxtrot, and swing, to more sultry Latin dances, like salsa and Argentine tango. Each dance has its own unique steps, protocols, and even clothing and shoes for those who really get into the groove. For many people, partner dancing fosters a healthy passion and a whole new network of friends.

How partner dancing benefits the brain

The brain continually rewires itself and creates new neural connections as required. That’s the essence of what’s called the neuroplasticity of the brain. It’s also what keeps the brain young. Stop learning new things, and the brain stops making new connections.

Dancing promotes neuroplasticity because you’re constantly multitasking—navigating the dance floor, integrating new movement patterns with music, and connecting with your partner. Spilt second decision-making is also part of the process, which relies more on intuition and trust than intellectual thinking. “Research has shown that exercise, social interaction, and novelty each stimulate activity-dependent genes that initiate the process of creating new neurons in our brain,” says Wilson. “Social dancing is an activity that integrates all three of these neuron-growing activities in one experience.”

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the relationship between leisure activities and the risk of dementia in 469 subjects older than 75 years of age who resided in a retirement community. None had dementia at baseline. Of the physical activities analyzed (including dancing, walking, bowling, and bicycling), dancing was the only physical activity associated with a lower risk of dementia. Fewer than 10 subjects played golf or tennis, so those activities weren’t assessed in this study.

Tango helps those with Parkinson’s disease

Dancing the Argentine tango could have potential benefits for people at certain stages of Parkinson’s disease, according to findings of a small study by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital–The Neuro, McGill University and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. The study looked at changes in patients’ motor abilities following a 12-week tango course, and is also the first study to assess the effect that tango has on non-motor symptoms.

Tango requires specific steps that involve rhythmically walking forward and backward. This may be particularly helpful for walking difficulties, especially for freezing of gait and to prevent backward falls. In addition, tango requires working memory, control of attention, and multitasking to incorporate newly learned and previously learned dance elements, to stay in rhythm with the music, and maneuver around others on the dance floor. In particular, researchers noted that tango was helpful in improving balance and functional mobility, and had modest benefits in terms of patients’ cognitive functions. It also helped reduce fatigue.

Non-verbal, physical communication

While there are rules that govern all dances, socially, partner dances are not choreographed. Partners learn basic steps and cues to understand how to communicate with each other non-verbally in class. Once the social dancing begins, it’s totally improvised to the music. You never know for sure exactly what is going to happen next. Partners must listen and respond to each other in this music-inspired physical conversation. It is among the joys and challenges of partner dancing.

Dancing is as integral to human life as music. It fosters self-expression and lifts the spirit. Likewise, socializing is ever more important as we age. Partner dancing enables you to grow your circle of friends whether you have a spouse or not.

“Moving in synchrony with others to shared rhythms improves our mood and feelings of belonging and connection with others,” says Wilson. “Engaging in shared rhythms is a natural community builder, pain reliever and mood enhancer.” You can find partner dance classes in YMCAs, dance studios, community centers, and through the popular website

Improve your productivity in two minutes

“Above all else, breathe.”

That is a quote from Joseph H. Pilates, the man who invented a system of movement now popular around the world. Obviously, many ancient practices encourage breathing for meditation and health regulation. Joe integrated much ancient wisdom in his method. But we are only now as a Western society catching on to what has been known in the East for thousands of years.

Of course, Joe was also talking talking about MOVING while consciously breathing just as is done with yoga. You may not always be able to take a movement break — but you can take a breathing break anytime, anywhere.

“Above all else breathe.”

There are some companies that INSIST workers take breathing breaks. It’s no surprise that they are among the most highly innovative companies.

Breathe: We did this at Google. We had them take their hands off their keyboards two minutes a day, and watch their breath go in and out. This raises accuracy rates. Improves levels of happiness. Drops their stress levels. 

To those employers who refuse to let workers take a break outside for a breath of fresh air, you need to rethink your position.  I recently came across such an employer who balked when an employee wanted to take a walk break and asked for some exercise devices for her desk.  Dear employer:  you’re being extremely short-sighted.  Your employers are LESS productive the more chained to the desk they are.  Study after study proves it.  But don’t take my word for it, here’s what Harvard researchers say.

Exercise isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. A recent study that likened sitting as the new smoking is getting more people to sit up and take notice.  Now hear this: The latest is that even if you workout before or after work, if you sit on your duff for hours on end — you are still at higher risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and  heart disease.

Being self-employed is no less stressful.  It’s a constant self-imposed grind at times. But I know that if I don’t workout and take care of myself all else suffers including my ability to focus and help my clients.

woman jumping pink blseSo next time you’re feeling stressed and under massive deadline pressures — do the non intuitive thing — stop and BREATHE. Then STAND UP and move.  March in place, do a few jumping jacks, twist, side bend — just a minute or two will make a huge difference.  Try this a few times throughout your day and see for your self.

Then spread the word.

And if you want someone to come in and take your employees through a 25-minute exercise routine that counter balances the effects of sitting, there are plenty of trainers willing to come to your worksite to do just that.

You are losing muscle mass: you must fail to get it back

Are you over the age of 30?  Then you’re already on the sarcopenia road – age related muscle loss.  If you’re inactive you naturally lose as much as 5% of your muscle mass every decade starting in your 30s.  Even if you do workout, there will be some muscle decline. You can however, minimize how much.

I’m not going to lie to you.  It will take work. HARD work.  If you want to feel good in your body, you’re going to have to work for it.

Recently I made a cross country move.  Talk about stressful!  While I finally found  home, I now have to remake my life, find new friends, new jobs … I’m near menopause. Yawzah! I packed on some pounds especially round the middle (thanks some to middle age hormones but thanks also to personal choices) despite the fact that I DO workout regularly.

But you know what?  I wasn’t working out hard enough.  I wasn’t building muscle mass and it was slipping away fast.  For the first time in my life I have this weird fat around my middle – ick.  I love Pilates, yoga, swimming and biking – – and was doing them.  But here’s the reality: I wasn’t building muscle mass. So I decided to take action and integrate the principles of building muscle.

To efficiently build muscle, you must work against resistance to FAILURE.

So what does that mean?  It means if you are lifting weights, say bicep curls, you have to lift and squeeze your muscle each time you lift and keeping lifting until you really can not lift it any more.  That is muscle failure. That is what will efficiently BUILD your muscle.

Note that I said efficiently.  Are there other ways?  Yeah but they’ll take longer and resistance is still required.

This past week I have integrated the “at failure” principle into my workouts.  I’ve been lifting good old fashioned weights the tried and true way with dumbbells.  I’ve done my upper body twice and lower body twice – each time pushing my last set to failure.

I feel great.  I feel my muscle tone returning.  Yes – in one week. Of course, I’m not eating ice cream and potato chips and drinking every night.  I am keeping my choices on the lean side though truth be told I’ve had a few drinks this week (hey it’s a work in progress)

Morale of the story: determine what your fitness goals are and know that in all likelihood you can reach them.  Prepare your self MENTALLY.  Because in the end this will be what’s needed more than anything. You will need self-control and you may do well to get yourself a trainer because studies show that you will get fitter faster with a coach at your side. 

Know also that you CAN succeed.

My continual challenge is one of endurance.  I can be a real zealot at the start but then the enthusiasm drops off.  Knowing that’s my nature (in more than one area of my life) is really valuable because now I know it WILL happen and I CAN just say, hey that’s just a novelty wearing off and now I’ve got to work with my mind to really dig in.

One way is to acknowledge the success I’ve already had and know that if I stay the course there’s more success to come.

Need more inspiration?  Listen to this song by Pink


Want to feel better in your body right now? Move it.

Talk about instant gratification!  In just minutes you’ll feel the rush of increased blood flow circulating around, it’s an internal warmth and buzz.  A self-generated positive induced high from which you will reap rewards not only now but tomorrow and beyond.

At your desk?  Stand up. Jump or shake. Freak out your office mates. Maybe you’ll start a trend. I just got a DeskCycle and I’ll report on it soon. At first glance, I’m impressed.

Lately I’ve decided to push my self harder.  Like everyone else, I can fall complacent.  Sure I work out most days – but with kind of attitude? Sometimes I just go through the motions.  Lately I’ve done that a little too much. Then I met someone who though super challenged by Type 1 diabetes and a heart valve replacement, he was out doing triathlons at 58 and coming in first in his age category.

Well if he can ….

I decided to ramp it up and cross train. Gone is this little click in my hip joint (slightly misaligned pevlis that I put back into place with my best go-to method, Pilates). Most days I also do a quick ride about my new home, Siesta Key.  A 6 mile lunchtime loop to get me off my writer’s butt and into the glorious beauty of this island.

I feel fantastic.

Return to Life is a book written by Joseph Pilates many years ago. Like so many pioneers, he was way ahead of his time.  Now, almost 100 years later, his system has exploded in popularity. It is a logical, robust method for exercising the mind, body and spirit. While you won’t hear much about the “spirit” part, it was very much a part of Joe’s approach.

Pilates has completely changed my life and my body. It is something that you can do for the rest of your life. It is save and effective for most everyone at any age. As a Pilates instructor, I have had the privilege to work with many people and have seen first hand the light return to their eyes and an new energy return to their being.  That, my friends, is the spirit part.

Just today, I got an email from the National Institutes of Health with some very good tips on how people can integrate more activity into their lives. It’s especially important in our society now because we have become ever so sedentary. And more and more reports show that being active makes a difference in how you feel and can prevent and reverse certain health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Moving more and sitting less can reduce your risk for many serious conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain kinds of cancer. Some studies suggest that physical activity can have mental benefits as well, helping to relieve depression and maintain thinking abilities as you age. Healthful physical activity includes exercise as well as many everyday activities, such as doing active chores around the house, yard work, or walking the dog. 

Source: National Institutes of Health 

For more tips on how to fit more fitness into your day, click here.

What motivates you to move?  Share it maybe your story will helps others move too.

What are Native, Sponsored, and Content Marketing ?

It’s tough being a marketer these days.  There’s no way you can ignore what’s happening online but how on earth do you decide where to place your bets?  Pintrest.  Facebook. Twitter. Linkedin.  YouTube. Vine. And/or the emerging next new thing.  All are viable social media outlets.

The number one question is as it always has been – who is your audience?

If you’re seeking a younger crowd – say under 35 – you’ve got a myriad of social outlets and campaigns to consider.  For the older folks, the outlets may shrink but you certainly can’t ignore digital even for the post 65 and beyond crowd.  My 83 year mother is active on Facebook, was online banking before I was and is a voracious reader of news on the web.  She’s got the time.  And she’s got a nest egg that I am sure many an advertiser wouldn’t mind getting their paws on – say healthcare providers.

Which brings me to the subject at hand – the new(isn) world of marketing online through content.  So many terms are being bandied about that it’s hard to keep track.  As someone who offers content I needed a better understanding to help my clients better strategize where to budget their creative.  This article more fully explains it but here are the main definitions in a nutshell:

  • Native advertising = advertising that appears on a specific outlet such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin.  They are part of the stream of information – like the “you might also like” posts that appear on your Facebook page.
  • Sponsored Content = where an advertiser sponsors an article but doesn’t unduly influence the content. That content appears on news or publishing sites and would have some kind of banner or line saying “sponsored by XZY company”.
  • Content Marketing = information materials such as white papers, videos, free tips sheets, newsletters, ebooks designed to inform consumers in hopes they’ll appreciate your insights and promote and/or buy your products/services.

I love web publishing – doing it, learning about it, and networking with those who provide various services in the online world.  It reminds of being a producer in my old TV days.  While I don’t need to know how to operate all the equipment I do need to know what the technology can do to ply my writing trade. These days, there’s a lot to know.  So I focus on providing sponsored content articles, content marketing, and publishing mostly through WordPress. It’s plenty to keep me busy and my clients happy.



Promoting your blog post is just as important as writing good content. If you build it they MAY come but if you promote they more likely WILL come. So, how can you attract more viewers? Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder/Strategic Director of Orbit Media says publicize your post through:

  1. Social Media
  2. Email Marketing
  3. Search Engine Optimization


Social Media means LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Vine and many others.  Each have their own unique spin.  For most, crafting the opening lines of your post so that it clearly defines subject matter in the first sentence allows you to blast out a coherent message to many media channels – at the same time – with a social media management tool. Hootsuite is such a tool. With it you select where you want to promote you post and it sends your headline, first sentence or two plus a link to your blog. You can also schedule when you want to send your announcements. It’s a fast, convenient and organized way to publicize your posts.


Email marketing can be as simple as creating a database housing all those business cards you collect and sending a summary and link to your post to those you think would benefit from it. If you have a newsletter, be sure to include a link and a one sentence description of your post in your email blast AND in the newsletter itself.  Another way to promote your blog post using email is simply to add a link and quick blog post description to your email signature line.


The details of how best to do search engine optimization (SEO) are constantly changing.  But knowing what terms people are searching for is helpful when you are writing your posts. Typically people type in a few words in the search box. The main words are called keywords. Which keywords are best to use?  There’s a tool for that too! When asked if there were any free keyword finders, Mana Ionescu, President of lightspandigital offered up Ubersuggest. Just put in the term and see what other suggestions pop up.

The rule of thumb is to include the keyword in the post’s title, within the opening paragraph, and at least three-four times within your post. Also be sure to include keyword tags. While the analytic details about which keywords are driving traffic to your site are changing you will still be able to see which pages people are visiting., the publishing platform I use, includes lots of plug-ins that will automate the publicizing process and even help with SEO. While it’s smart to optimize your blog posts, people will return when you provide them with relevant content that can make their work, home, and personal lives better.

According to experts at Social Media Week in Chicago, the ratio of writing and promoting should be at least 1:1 – meaning if you spend an hour writing your post, you should spend an hour promoting it.

How do you promote your blog posts?   Please share your ideas here.




We date online why not diet online?  More than one of my clients have credited various apps for helping them drop a few pounds, improve their food choices and get fitter faster.  And now Greatest Loser guru Jillian Michaels throws down another challenge by partnering with Dietbetter.

Dietbet is a four-week social dieting challenge. According to the company 96% percent of DietBetters lose weight, with an average of over six pounds in four weeks. You could drop those pounds and pick up some cash in the process.

Michaels’ DietBet starts on September 24 and runs through October 21.

The rules for The Jillian Michaels DietBet are simple. Players all bet $30 into the pot to begin. Everyone who loses four percent of their starting weight over the course of the four-week game splits the pot equally at the end. Dietbet is not winner-take-all; everyone who reaches the finish line is a winner and receives an equal share of the pot. To validate weight loss, players submit multiple photos of themselves on their scales to DietBet’s human referees.

Find DietBet on Facebook and Twitter. An iPhone mobile app is also available.

Good luck and let us know how you do!


Chobani Yogurt Recall

If you love Greek style yogurt chances are you’ve enjoyed Chobani.  According to the CEO, they’ve voluntarily recalled products due to a type of mold commonly found in yogurts that don’t have preservatives.

The problem affected about 5% of it’s product and is reported to be solved now.

If you purchased yogurt with the code 16-012, Best By: 9/11/2013 – 10/7/ 2013, toss it. To get replacements or refunds,  contact their Customer Loyalty Team at  or call 877-847-6181 between the hours of 9am and 5pm EST.

Chobani 6 oz. cups – all flavors
Chobani 16 oz. tubs – all flavors
Chobani 32 oz. tubs – all flavors
Chobani 3.5 oz. cups – all flavors
Chobani Bite™ 3.5 oz. cups – all flavors
Chobani Flip™ 5.3 oz. containers – all flavors
Chobani Champions® cups 3.5 oz. – all flavors
Chobani Champions® tubes 2.25 oz., 8, 16 and 36 count – all flavors

The mold caused the packaging to swell and some customers had said that it tasted fizzy or had an alcohol overtone.   The company started pulling the products from the self last week. The potentially affected products were distributed from their Twin Falls, Idaho facility.

In short, it’s best not to eat yogurt or any other product if the packaging is torn, punctured, or swelling. You just never know what contaminants natural or otherwise may lurk inside.