‘Exercise in disguise’ is an all-out joyful way to feel good.

Make sure you dance - it's great for your wellbeing. It's good exercise-wise, great for social reasons and a brilliant way to interact with others and to feel a sense of togetherness. It also boosts brain-power.

Plus, if you're older, it can lower the risk of dementia - because you simply have to "exercise" your brain to dance.

So says Carlene Newall, who works in the dance studies department at the University of Auckland. She says significant research confirms frequent dancing is beneficial.

Newall is researching what it is specifically about dancing that gives the significant cognitive benefits.


She's keen to rate dance styles, too, and find out which styles work better for different people and therefore what kinds of activities produce the best outcomes.

The university's Centre for Brain Research (CBR) will be involved and Newall will collaborate with neurologists, psychologists and even engineering students who are looking to develop a computer map of the brain. The findings could emerge in four to five years.

Newall leads hip-hop classes in the mental health ward at Auckland's Starship Hospital and instructs dance in retirement homes.

The research will investigate the benefits of dance for people with dementia. Currently 50,000 Kiwis suffer from this disease and that figure is set to more than triple by 2050.

Dancer Candy Lane has lectured, competed, performed and judged at world-class level and the public knows her from TV shows.

"Dancing is exercise in disguise," she says. She says ballroom and Latin - couple dancing - gives people confidence with the opposite sex and socially, plus it allows the opportunity to meet others.

Ballet is the best way to work your core, which is why "it's the latest fitness craze" and jazz and hip-hop are great for working all parts of the body "without thinking about it".

She adds that cabaret, burlesque and especially Latin shape the legs best as they are done in heels.


Dance teacher, entertainer and MC Aaron Gilmore, who won Dancing with the Stars in 2009, says his youngest student is 5 and his oldest is 76. He quips "Everyone should dance, simply because we can."

Meanwhile, there is a string of dance styles to try, from aerial, 5Rhythms, cultural dances to the haka. Newall even considers Beyonce's Single Ladies' (put a ring on it) its own dance style.

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge training

Practice may not make perfect, but it helps. Not long to go now until cycle challenge day, so you should be refining your skills, developing strength and speed and have a good understanding of what else you may need to work on.

Start riding in the early morning and make sure you eat at least an hour beforehand. If you can, come to Taupo and ride sections of the course so it's familiar. Some other things to consider include:

• Tapering off your training at least four days before the event. This can improve performance even though you're doing less.

• Planning your food intake for the event and work out how much solid food and fluid you'll need -- don't try anything new. Amy Taylor's book, available from cyclechallenge.com, is an excellent guide.

• Three or four days before the event increase your carbohydrate intake.

• On the night before the cycle challenge eat only food you know your body is happy with, and remember to bring any special dietary needs with you.

• Enter online at cyclechallenge.com
Lianne Fraser
Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachelGrunwell