Take up dancing, mayor tells councillors

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2011

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Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown is suggesting city councillors take up ballroom dancing or language lessons to improve their performance.

Taking up a pastime, or learning te reo or Mandarin, would "exercise neural pathways and keep us mentally fit", Ms Wade-Brown said.

The suggestions were made in a email she sent out this month to all city councillors and chief executive Garry Poole.

She quoted a study that explained why skills councillors were already good at would not make them much smarter, because they paid little attention to them.

"In contrast, taking up a new, cognitively demanding activity – ballroom dancing, a foreign language – is more likely to boost processing speed, strengthen synapses and expand or create functional networks."

Another study cited by Ms Wade-Brown provided evidence "that aerobic fitness can keep ageing brains healthy".

"And if you didn't think it was relevant to your role [the study said] `those with more connectivity ... also tend to be better at planning, prioritising, strategising and multi-tasking'. That's what we have to do – and preferably enjoy doing it."

When councillor John Morrison received the email while on holiday in Miami, he assumed it was a joke. "I thought it was a wind-up, that one of my sporting mates was winding me up."

Councillor Bryan Pepperell was equally dismissive of the mayor's suggestions. "I didn't take it seriously because I didn't know what she was talking about.

"I certainly don't think ballroom dancing would make me a better councillor."

Ms Wade-Brown also had a message directed at councillor Leonie Gill, who smokes.

She told Ms Gill in her email that a study found nicotine had "significant positive effects" on fine motor skills but increased the risk of dementia.

"I'm not taking it up again," Ms Wade-Brown wrote, concluding with the following pitfalls of smoking – "shortness of breath, coughing, lung or throat cancer, and most of all, the smell ...".

Ms Wade-Brown said she had laughed about the content of the email with Ms Gill, and it was meant to be light-hearted.

Ms Gill said she had told Ms Wade-Brown that the comments could have been read differently.

"It could have said I looked like a smelly smoker ... but I didn't take it the wrong way. I just thought, oh well."

Ms Wade-Brown said there were many free personal development courses and seminars available and she wanted councillors to consider ones that appealed to them and from which they could benefit. Wellington ratepayers would "absolutely not" be picking up the bill, she said.

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- The Dominion Post

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