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Waltzing into better health

LaGRANGE – Members of LaGrange’s Active Life center are dancing their way to better health, and improving relationships in the process thanks to programs at the center.

LaGrange’s most popular spot for the 55 and up crowd is really getting things moving with two dances every month: a ballroom dance which occurred last week and a country music dance scheduled for tonight.

“We have two monthly dances,” said Molly Jones who organizes the dances. “One is the ballroom dance the other is a county music dance, and then we have line dancing classes.”

The dance classes have proven popular with members. Among their programs offered are a ballroom dancing class on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. for a fee, a Thursday ballroom dancing class at 7 p.m. for a fee, a dance fitness class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:15 p.m., and a line dancing class is scheduled for Thursdays at 1 p.m. Square dancing classes are scheduled to meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 7:30 p.m. and also cost a fee.

“We started this one (dance) here in September, and we had 50 (people come) for our first dance, then we’ve been in the high 30s for the last few dances,” said Jones. “… It’s definitely good exercise.”

Before the Active Life Center started hosting the dances, the only dance open to the public was the regular ballroom dance at LaFayette Christian School, which has since relocated to the Active Life building. Tonight’s country dance is expected to be three hours of dancing fun with live music performed by the New River Band. Tickets for the dance are $5 per person, and while some of the attendees have gone to the classes, the dance is open to adults of all skill levels.

The dances provide far more then exercise though. They teach a skill and provide couples with a chance to get closer to one another.

“I have watched couples who were almost on the brink of – on the verge of going their separate ways, come together by working through the dance together,” said Cody Wayne Foot who teaches the ballroom dancing classes. “… If we want this to work good, he’s got to lead, and she’s got to follow, and we’ve got to do our part.”

The goal of these dances – and other similar programs offered by the center ranging from tai chi to water aerobics – is to make life better for Active Life’s members.

“We have a three-fold purpose here that we try to enhance quality of life, empower independence and extend life span,” said Troup County Director of Aging Services Dan Wooten. “So, everything we do centers around those areas, and health and wellness is a central part.”

Active Life also helps members keep up with their health by getting regular checks of important health measures like blood pressure.

“We have lots of different… self-management (programs), like for diabetes and high blood pressure, pre-diabetes,” said Jones. “… We’ve had glaucoma checks. We’ve had cholesterol checks. Whatever we can do – bone density – whatever we can do to help our older population stay independent and stay aware of changes that come when you become older, and of course the challenges of health.”

In fact, despite the variety of exercise programs offered, many of the exercises at the center are set up to feel more like fun then exercise.

“Even our trips – which travel is a big deal here, we take about two to three day trips a month, and then we also do some multi-day trips – it is really a disguised exercise,” said Wooten. “It is fun. It’s like me, I love walking to see places. I don’t mind walking miles to do that, and so we take all kinds of day trips that involve walking, and people getting out may not even realize that they are exercising.”

But, just because these exercises are fun, doesn’t mean they aren’t burning calories. Dancers burn an estimated 150 to 320 calories an hour with ballroom dancing, depending on the speed of the dance, and 290 to 420 calories per hour country dancing, according to Fitness Blender.

The country music dance begins tonight at 7 p.m.  and tickets are $5 at the door. For more information about LaGrange’s Active Life’s programs call 706-883-1681 or visit them at 140 Ragland Street.

Reach Alicia B. Hill at alicia.hill@lagrangenews.com or at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2154.