If you fancy dancing, why not give country a bit of a whirl?

Soft shoes is all you need
Soft shoes is all you need

Everyone seems to be chasing a way to stay fit and healthy and have fun at the same time.

Slogging it out at the gym doesn’t appeal to everyone and it’s less appealing to walk or run outdoors in autumn.

If you ask local Scottish country dancers what you should try, they will give you a quick answer.

And the good news for local people keen to give it a whirl is that you are in a good place already.

With lively clubs in Linlithgow and the nearby Falkirk branch there’s no excuse not to get involved.

Linlithgow Scottish Country Dance Club is affiliated to the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS).

The Linlithgow club has been in existence for more than 40 years and sees itself as a “social focal point” in the area.

The club had its opening night last Friday, giving residents an opportunity go along, join in the dancing and find out more about the club which meets on Fridays in the Chalmers Hall, Linlithgow Bridge.

The Falkirk branch, which meets in Polmont, Grangemouth, Larbert and Laurieston is one of the biggest in the UK, outside of the major cities.

It’s been running for more than 80 years and has maintained a healthy membership with beginners sessions, regular classes, weekly ceilidhs and live band, large-scale dances.

But what’s the appeal?

It appears that dance is not only social, it also has the ability to stimulate the mind and keep you fit as a fiddle.

In 2010, researchers at the University of Strathclyde studied 70 women, aged between 60 and 85. Half were Scottish country dancers, the rest participated in activities such as swimming, walking and keep-fit classes.

The women were assessed on their strength, stamina, flexibility and balance.

They all compared favourably with the average fitness levels for women in their age range.

However, the Scottish country dancers were shown to have more agility, stronger legs and were able to walk more briskly than people who took part in other forms of exercise.

And research from the University of Cumbria, published in January 2014, suggested that participating in Scottish country dancing could reduce ageing.

It also helps to prevent dementia thanks to the cognitive skills needed to memorise steps and formations.

Gillian Wilson, executive officer of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, said: “There is increasing evidence of the positive health benefits associated with Scottish country dancing.

“Research suggests that it could delay the ageing process and scientists have found that older women who regularly take part are fitter than those of the same age who do other exercise.

“The RSCDS is actively building on these scientific findings and spreading the message that dancing has a positive impact on social, mental and physical health.

“Scottish country dancing provides an opportunity to exercise the body and the mind in sociable company.

“You do not need any special equipment except a pair of light shoes.”