Women who dance the weight away

Tia Pettingill… “I am happier and stronger, I feel more resilient and able to face new challenges, mentally and physically!” Photo by Andrew Finch

Tia Pettingill… “I am happier and stronger, I feel more resilient and able to face new challenges, mentally and physically!” Photo by Andrew Finch

WITH 29 Australian women dying every day from heart disease, the Heart Foundation is appealing to women to “live lighter” and prevent heart disease by leading a healthy, active lifestyle.

Its “LiveLighter” campaign is a healthy weight education program that aims to tackle the shocking statistic that 64 per cent of Canberran adults are obese.

“Heart disease is the single biggest killer of women and men in the ACT. With increased weight, comes an increased risk of heart disease,” says Jennifer Ramsay, LiveLighter ACT campaign manager.

“The good news is that heart disease is largely preventable. Leading a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of heart disease. Being active every day and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight are two ways you can reduce your risk,” she says.

“At least 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise each day is recommended, and you start experiencing the benefits straight away.”  

For two women, their journeys back to good health and fitness came in the form of dance classes. Tia Pettingill, 26, always had a love for dance in high school, but a series of knee injuries slowed her down and for five years after she finished school she stopped exercising completely.

“I was never a sporty or gym person, so when I stopped dancing I lost my only avenue for health. Keeping healthy just went out the door,” she says.

“I was overweight, unhappy and was stuck in a routine of going to work, having dinner, watching TV and then going to bed. There wasn’t much else going on in my life,” she says.

Tia says that it was her mum who finally convinced her to return to her childhood passion and to try adult dance classes at Dance Central studio in Philip.

“The first time I tried the class, I was expecting pain but I was surprised when I had no issues,” says Tia.

“The teachers were so supportive and helped me build up my strength, with an emphasis on safety,” she says.

Tia now dances every day of the week and says she’s never looked back.

“I am happier and stronger, I feel more resilient and able to face new challenges, mentally and physically!”

Mum of two, Lisa Tonna, 44, was a tap and jazz ballet dancer in her school years and was inspired to give dance another try after enrolling her young daughters in youth classes two years ago.

“The class brought back happy memories and I started doing weekly tap-dancing classes,” she says.

“One of the great things about dance is that you’re exercising but you don’t realise it, it’s fun and entirely different to sweating at a gym.”

Lisa says she’s noticed a definite improvement in her fitness.

Julie Scheer, founder and director of Dance Central, says that their “new-to-dance” classes are proving popular to women who want to explore or reignite their passion for dance – as well as restore their life balance.

“As women, we are often torn in different directions; our classes are designed to help restore the balance, and inject some fun into our lives as well.

“When we learn to put ourselves first, we create much better experiences, happier lives and happier families,” she says.

“Dance is a fun way to get active and improve our overall wellbeing.”

LiveLighter’s Jennifer Ramsay says that it’s important to do a physical activity that you enjoy and that dancing can bring extra benefits.

“People who are depressed and socially isolated have a higher risk of heart disease, so dance classes that are regular and sociable help address this risk, too,” she says.   

Lisa couldn’t agree more! She says one of the biggest improvements is to her mental health by getting out of her comfort zone, learning a new skill and she’s made new friends.

“It’s good for your mind just to get away for an hour or so, away from the kids and do something you enjoy,” says Lisa.

More information at livelighter.com.au

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