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The Shocking Truth About Hip Hop Dancing: Who Knew It’s Actually A Hellaciously Fun, Heart-Healthy Workout That Also Benefits Your Brain?

September 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Health & Fitness, Memory Loss, Wellness

If you’re like many Baby Boomers, you’re always planning to get to the gym “next week” when you life won’t be quite so busy. (Yeah, right.) You probably already know that what you really need to do is to find an exercise program that is so much fun you can’t wait to get back to it. (And of course, it’d be even better if you could do it wherever you find yourself – at home, at work or on the road – without having to buy any expensive equipment). Otherwise, with your “busy-busy-busy” lifestyle, fitting in a trip to the gym falls to the bottom of your to-do list

Maybe the Beijing Olympics Inspired You a Bit?

No doubt watching 42-year old Dara Torres anchor the U.S. women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay to a silver medal finish encouraged you to find time to get back into a fitness routine. Dara’s certainly a testament to dedication, passion and willpower. Doubtless she motivated millions of Boomers who’ve slipped away from the health benefits of a regular exercise routine.  But for fitness-challenged Boomers, Dara may not have been the most inspirational presence at the recent Beijing Olympics. Nor were the 20 other older Olympians – motivational as they were — who represented other sports, including:

  • John Dane, a 58 year old sailor, whose pursuit for an Olympic berth began 40 years ago in 1968. Dane has teamed with his son-in-law to make the team in the Star event.
  • Libby Callahan, 56 year old pistol shooter and retired Washington, DC police officer, who competed in her fourth Games.
  • Hiroshi Hoketsu, Beijing’s oldest Olympian at 67, who competed on the Japanese equestrian team.

No, For Pure Fitness Inspiration, Nothing Could Possibly Beat Beijing’s “Hip Hop Grannies” – Who Weren’t Even IOC-Sanctioned Olympians!

Did catch the Hip Hop Dancing exhibition led by Wu Ying, a 70 year old Chinese grandmother from Beijing? Her troupe, the Hip-Hop Grannies,” performed on set of the Today show, and were truly amazing. Check it out for true inspiration!!

For The Hip-Hop Grannies, Dancing Proves “50 Is the New 30”

Wu Ying is from a generation that lived through some of modern China’s most tumultuous decades, including the stifling Cultural Revolution era, when western cultural thought and influences were banned. She probably never heard of the Boomer slogan “50 is the new 30,” but she does know the benefits she’s gained from her fun exercise program that she can practice anywhere. And she plans to dance for as long as she physically can, noting:

“I think that dancing hip-hop has made me younger, happier, [and] improved my memory.”

Dancing Also Benefits Mental Health

The physical health payoff from dancing might appear obvious, but there’s more: Regular physical exercise also staves off dementia and improves mental acuity. Just ask the “Grannies:”

  • Liu Jian Zhu, a 59-year-old former pharmacist with the Chinese air force, said dancing hip-hop has been “a breakthrough” for her. “Since I was in the military, my life had been required to be serious and intense,” Liu explained. “It has really changed my life and personality.”
  • Wen Di, 55, used to work as a railroad construction technician, but after retiring just last year she wanted to find something to fill what she called the emptiness in her life. “I saw Wu’s dancing on TV and thought that it was very inspiring.”
  • Says Wu: “We represent a new image, a new fashion for Chinese grandmothers. We develop with time and connect with the world. We don’t just learn our own Chinese culture. We learn cultures from other countries to enrich ourselves and our lives to lead a more colorful and high-quality life.”

How the Chinese Dancing Grannies Got Started

Wu Ying began performing hip-hop routines in 2003, after catching the first National Hip-Hop Dancing Competition on Chinese television:

  • “The competitors were all young people, wearing headscarves, headdresses, hats, and various clothes,” recounted Wu, a retired accountant who was 66 at the time. “I thought that was very fresh.”
  • Inspired by “the look they had in their eyes, the way they moved their fingers, heads and bodies,” Wu thought hip-hop dancing would be perfect for herself and China’s aged and infirm.
  • Wu set out to learn hip-hop dancing at a local gym.
  • She also began looking to put together a five-member troupe to promote hip-hop dancing by touring the country and by performing on Chinese TV.

The Hip-Hop Granny Dance Team soon formed and the Grannies – whose average age was 60 – made their debut in August of 2004 at the Beijing qualifier for the National Hip-Hop Dancing Competition.

  • They faced off against people several decades younger.
  • “They (the younger competition) were professionals.”
  • “We seniors didn’t know much so we were very nervous.”

But their daily rehearsal routines paid off; the women walked off with third prize.

So Now It’s Your Turn to Get Up Off Your Couch and Started Dancing!

Here’s how to start hip-hop dancing in your neighborhood!

  • Download your free Hip Hop Radio toolbar, and start dancing to the hip hop beat from the comfort of your home.
  • Find out if there’s a dance studio near you offering adult hip-hop and sign up. Do it now. Don’t let the grass grow under your feet! (They really wanna be dancing!)
  • Check out this great list of hip hop dancing videos which you can order online and start learning in the comfort of your own home.

And one last parting thought: Wu Ying says the next dance she plans to tackle is break dancing! Think you can keep up with this spry septuagenarian Chinese grandmother?