As a chartered accountant and finance manager at one of the big banks Tom Sheddan had become used to working up to seventy hours a week.
Managing big money transactions and a team of 23 is demanding work and there came a point when the pressures of the job finally got to him.
“I went off with stress a couple of years ago. I had eight weeks off. I was literally hiding in a room,” he says.
Then he discovered an unlikely ‘cure’: dancing.
Before they started a family Tom and his wife Monique attended social ballroom classes and ceilidhs. With the two boys grown up and Tom still struggling for full fitness they decided that together they would go back on the dance floor as a way to beat the blues.
“The benefits of dancing are tremendous,” says Tom. “It takes my mind off billion pound international accounting. It takes me out of my stress zone and work situations that are impossible.
“Our teachers are great. We did a beginners class last year and this year we are going to social ballroom and Latin.
Undoubtedly, the huge popularity of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing has inspired a new wave of novice movers and shakers to sign up for dance classes.
Busy executives and professionals are donning their dance shoes and practising their paso dobles to shake off the cares of the corporate world.
Dance teacher Jane Bell has been tutoring for more than 45 years specialising in classic dances such as the waltz, quickstep and foxtrot as well as some Latin moves, having trained at Bush Davies in Surrey and the London College of Dance and Drama.
She teaches two classes a week at Dance Base the national centre for dance in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket. She also runs Edinburgh Dance at St. Anne’s Church Hall in Corstorphine.
“It’s absolutely de-stressing and gives you and your dance partner quality time which is unique to you. As a teacher it is de-stressing for me too. Teaching dance has been fantastic for me over the years. When the chips are down you just walk in and leave the world behind.
“It’s one of the few things where people put down their mobile phones and devices and just live in the moment.
“In this day and age that’s quite unusual. We always have a laugh too. It’s emotionally and physically exciting and satisfying. It’s great when dancers move around like a well-oiled machine. The quick step especially can be exhilarating and gives the dancers such a buzz.
Katherine Sibbald an audit manager with Audit Scotland has been attending dance classes for four years.
“I work across the public sector and audit police, fire and local government. Dance gives me a space away from thinking about whatever is going on at work,” she says.
“With dance you are focusing on what you are doing in that moment in time. It is the one thing that keeps my head straight.”
Dancing is among those activities that are recommended for those suffering from stress and anxiety.
Cal Strode, a spokesperson for the Mental Health Foundation, said: “It makes total sense that strenuous physical exercise such as ballroom dancing could be helping people who are dealing with high levels of stress. Physical activity has a huge potential to enhance our wellbeing.
“Regular physical activity can increase our self-esteem and can reduce stress and anxiety. It also plays a role in preventing the development of mental health problems and in improving the quality of life of people experiencing mental health problems.
“Even a short burst of 10 minutes’ brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood.”
It is recommended that the average adult should aim for between 75 and 150 minutes of exercise a week, says Cal.
“This can be either moderate intensity exercise, such as walking, hiking or riding a bike, or it can be more vigorous activities, such as running, swimming fast, aerobics or skipping. Any activity that raises your heart rate, makes you breathe faster, and makes you feel warmer counts towards your exercise.”