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

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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.

The Falkirk branch of The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) is one of the largest in the UK, outside 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.

It is also the Falkirk branch which runs a weekend-long dance at the Crieff Hydro Hotel, attracting over 350 participants.

So if you’re thinking about taking up the hobby, you’re in a good place to start.

George Stevenson, secretary of the local branch said: “It’s very cheap, you don’t need any special equipment and, as a charity, we can subsidise the cost of the classes – encouraging people to try Scottish country dancing.

“The main thing about Scottish country dancing is it combines exercise with keeping an active mind.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of dances, some with very intricate patterns.

“You have to remember the steps and your footwork.

“It’s also very good exercise, low impact and good for balance, not to mention social too!”

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, golf 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.”

The Falkirk branch has worked hard to promote itself and encourage new members in recent years.

It also runs a free six-week taster block for new dancers and hour-long beginners classes run prior to regular sessions.

George added: “The beginners’ classes offer really gentle instruction and cater for all abilities.

“It’s totally non-judgemental and more experienced dancers will join in to help out.

“But making mistakes is all part of the fun, and it’s all about having fun and enjoying it.”

Young and old dancing a jig

The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society is dedicated to promoting Scottish country dance.

It has a world-wide network of branches and affiliated groups from as far afield as Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Japan and the Ukraine.

Branches and affiliated groups are the grass roots organisations that run classes, provide training and host social events at a local level.

Since 1947, Her Majesty the Queen has been RSCDS patron, the Royal title having been bestowed by King George VI.

One new initiative from the society is to encourage more young people to take up the dance.

Jigs and Reels is a progressive programme of Scottish country dances for teachers who want to inspire children and young people.

It includes a book of lesson plans, designed to meet the needs of the Curriculum for Excellence, a CD of the music and a DVD illustrating each dance.

Classes in Falkirk for everyone from beginner to experienced are re-starting this month following the summer holidays so it’s an ideal time to start!

Sessions run throughout the week in Grangemouth, Larbert, Polmont and Laurieston.

For a full list of class times and venues, visit www.rscds-falkirk.org.uk or for more information, email George at georgebstevenson@blueyonder.co.uk.