Dancing helps patients breathe better

Dancing helps patients breathe better


December 15, 2006

SEBASTIAN — It may not be “dancing with the stars” but for some local residents with breathing problems, it’s a sure way to exercise and enjoy life at the same time.

That’s the theory behind the dancing demonstration Dec. 8 at the Sebastian River Medical Center’s monthly Fit for Life Health Series. The program, called “Dancing Your Way to Better Breathing” showed pulmonary rehabilitation patients how to use easy dance steps to control shortness of breath and lead more productive, independent and healthy lives.

Registered Respiratory Therapist Joe Wynes, who also doubles as a ballroom dance instructor at the Sebastian Community Center, helped the 20 attendees waltz their way to better breathing techniques, while having fun at the same time.

“Patients that have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) often think they can’t dance any more because it will make them short of breath,” said Wynes, who has been a dance instructor for more than 10 years. “I want to show them they can still do something that they once enjoyed, even with some physical limitations.”

Wynes started his class off with a warm-up march, designed to exercise the lower body. To the sound of “St. Louis Blues,” the mostly senior citizen patients strutted around the room, while some stamped their feet to the music while remaining in their seats.

Peggy Craft, director of the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at Sebastian River Medical Center, said that Wynes and another Registered Respiratory Therapist Liz Kalinosky came up with the idea for the dance class.

“We were talking about how dancing is such a good exercise for patients,” said Craft. “Both Joe and Liz thought it would be a great idea to help people find out what they can and can’t do, especially if they have breathing problems.”

While the class covered the fundamentals of several different dances including the meringue, the waltz and the rumba, it was the hula that had everyone on the dance floor. In addition to the patients, several nurses, therapists and hospital administrator Stan Holm joined in the fun, as Wynes explained the therapeutic benefits of dancing.

“Ballroom dancing is certainly more fun than walking on a treadmill,” said Wynes, whose innovative program will be featured in an upcoming issue of the American Association for Respiratory Care’s monthly magazine called the “Times.”

“And studies have shown that when people are having fun exercising, they’re more apt to stick with it,” Wynes said.

For Rita DeFrancisci, of Vero Beach, the chance to dance again was what brought her and her husband Joe to the session.

“Joe was my therapist at the hospital and he made a big difference in my life,” said DeFrancisci, 75, who suffers from asthma as well as COPD. “I think dancing is happy therapy and even though I have my limitations now, I still love to dance. When you’ve been ill and you can start doing normal things again, it’s just great.”

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