The launch of Get UP & Dance exceeded everyone’s expectations. For 20 days in February, we encouraged members of the community to tune into CBS Radio’s STAR 100.7 or Y108 at 3 p.m., dance as a dedication to their favorite charity, and share a video of it on social media with #GetUpPGH. Those videos were then played on KDKA-TV’s “Pittsburgh TODAY Live” every Monday and Friday. The upshot? It turned into a community-wide event, raising awareness for 49 different charities, some of which had multiple groups dancing for them! Nearly 50 videos came pouring in, featuring everyone from seniors, to people in wheelchairs, to hipsters, to kindergarten classes. Celebrities from Beth Stern to Larry Richert danced for their favorite causes. Luanne O’Brien from Integral Ballroom submitted a video every day for the Westmoreland County Food Bank! Instead of reaching for coffee, candy, and cranky attitudes midday, we all got our groove on. With more than 20,000 video views, this campaign surely has legs! — Christine Tumpson


Doctor’s Orders

Our focus on healthy lifestyles caught the attention of medical experts at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, who sponsored the event, along with Dollar Bank. While we knew that dancing was great in many ways, we wanted to clarify the specifics by talking to Dr. Vicki March of UPMC BodyChangers:

What are the benefits of dancing?

Dr. March: Dancing has many benefits to health, including physical health, mental health, and even spiritual health. Listening to music itself is pleasurable; moving to it in time with others can be more so! Dancing events are not only occasions for social interaction, but also seem to actually promote social bonding through movement and nonverbal communication. Since dancing is a type of physical activity, it confers the same benefits as other exercises, including improving circulation, cardiopulmonary fitness, balance, flexibility, and strength, as well as coordination. Also, as with other exercises, it helps relieve stress, elevate mood, and boost self-esteem and feelings of well-being. Research has shown that physical activity can ameliorate depression as well as antidepressants. Dancing is also a creative outlet, and there are so many different types — there is something for everyone!

Why do you believe that this is a priority in today’s medical mindset?

Dr. March: Although clinicians typically recommend “eat less, exercise more” for weight loss, what usually comes to mind is a rigid, deprivational diet and walking on a treadmill, which can be boring and unpleasant! But with dance, people forget they are exercising, and are just having fun and getting healthy at the same time. Suggesting dancing would be “thinking outside the box” for a lot of clinicians — but to suggest it as physical activity might get more people moving more because it is fun!

Tell us more about UPMC BodyChangers.

Dr. March: UPMC BodyChangers is a unique program, providing comprehensive support for people maintaining weight loss. BodyChangers coordinates healthy events, which allow people to meet, make friends, and enjoy each other’s company. Some events have included dance — we had a series of belly dancing classes. We have cooking classes, exercise classes, group walks, cycling, kayaking, supermarket tours, educational seminars, support groups, cooking demonstrations, and fashion shows.

:: For more information, visit upmc.com.

Looking at the emotional and mental benefits of dance, Dr. Antoine B. Douaihy, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, offers the perspective that Get UP & Dance can bring life-changing moments.

How does dance improve our quality of life?

Dr. Douaihy: People could change their internal mindset through expressing themselves in a dancing activity. A considerable number of research studies have shown that dance and some forms of dance therapy are effective for improving quality of life and reducing clinical symptoms of depression and anxiety. Other positive effects have demonstrated a positive impact on the subjective feeling of well-being, mood, and body image. Dancing is considered a form of physical activity that helps reduce stress, improve sleep, and boost self-esteem, if it is practiced on a regular basis like any other exercise. Joining a group dance class may have a positive impact on mood and reduce depression, mostly because of the social support factor.

What are your favorite songs to dance to?

Dr. Douaihy: “Blister in the Sun” by Violent Femmes, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston, and “Thriller” by Michael Jackson.

:: For more information on Dr. Douaihy’s work, visit psychiatry.pitt.edu.

To view the dance videos, visit whirlmagazine.com/getuppgh, or search #GetUpPGH on Facebook.

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