To keep the body in good health is a duty... ~Buddha
As the holidays grow closer, Nutcracker productions come to an end, dance schools close for a few weeks, students take a break from dance classes and everyone looks forward to some much deserved rest. There is no doubt that our bodies benefit from rest and that our muscles need time to repair themselves after working strenuously, yet, I always hear dancers lament that as soon as Nutcracker season comes to an end, they become sick.
Exercise over a prolonged period of time has been shown to have a positive effect on the body’s immune system. Moderate exercise stimulates T-cells which are produced by the thymus gland. These cells seek out invading infectious cells and kill them off.
However, bouts of intense exercise encourage the body to produce stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) that temporarily suppress the immune system. A full run of Nutcracker would certainly fall into this category.
When most dance students are on vacation, they tend to abandon all physical activity. Since moderate continuous exercise stimulates the immune system, that benefit is lost.
During the holidays, we also tend to eat more foods that are higher in sugar content than we normally consume. Sugar interferes with the human body’s ability to absorb vitamin C which plays a big role in helping us fight disease.
So….yes, dancers’ bodies deserve a rest from class, but dancers can stay healthy if they continue to exercise on some level each day. A simple walk each morning, a yoga class or a Pilates class will keep the immune system stimulated. It’s also helpful to think about how much sugar you might be consuming……but don’t go overboard! If those Christmas cookies look good and smell good then you should definitely have some! The holiday season, after all, only comes once a year.
May it be a year filled with healthy, intelligent dancers!
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