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Waltzing a Community to Cardiovascular Health

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, May 13, 2013
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This article appears in the May issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

On the commute to his private cardiology practice in Ocala, Fla., Justin Ferns, MD, FACC, used to pass a local dance studio and ponder . Born and raised in southern India, Ferns grew up playing soccer and tennis for exercise, but never had formal dance training. After he broke his ankle playing soccer six years ago, Ferns finally stopped into the dance studio, searching for a low-impact exercise routine. The cardiologist quickly noted dance's impact on his own endurance and health, so he began to suggest dancing to his patients as a low-impact way to improve cardiovascular health. The intersection of his new hobby and profession became "CardioWaltz" in 2010. Every other Wednesday evening, Ferns hosts the free class and recruits one of his personal dance instructors to teach 25–40 community members and many of his patients at the local recreational department's auditorium. During these classes, Ferns discusses cardiovascular health and preventive medicine. Monthly, he hosts CardioWaltz Galas, where he provides free cardiovascular screenings for an average turnout of 250 aspiring dancers.

When dancing and patient care meet on the dance floor: Aligning my interest in my patients with this hobby absolutely hit a passionate line for me. I look forward to interacting with my patients and my patients look forward to these CardioWaltz sessions. These lessons are very social, and patients are free to learn things at their own pace.

On dancing as a workout: Many times you can do it with a smile and burn calories. For a dance such as the waltz, if you do it properly you can maintain a pace that burns 350–400 calories in an hour. Not that you continuously waltz for an hour normally, but it just shows when you are waltzing in the right way the potential the exercise can reach. There are a lot of dance forms that allow you to increase the intensity to burn calories, too.

On practicing what you preach: That's all just a part of connecting to your patients: You should be encouraging them to try to do more, and if you're out there dancing and teaching, they will be more likely to take that advice and try something new.

Reprint HLR0513-11


This article appears in the May issue of HealthLeaders magazine.


Chelsea Rice is an associate editor for HealthLeaders Media.
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