Benefits of Dancing
What is so special about Ballroom Dancing? "Dance is not purely physical in many ways. It also requires a lot a mental effort" says Dr. Verghese, assistant professor of neurology at the Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University. Dancers follow complex steps and figures. You have to think about them and remember them. Men have to think about what steps to do next and lead women. And women have to follow the men, adapting to their movement and to the precise beat of the music. So, dancing keeps your feet and brains on the ball. Dancers do not just move on reflex. Dancing is a cognitive activity. It requires concentration and thus keeps you brains working harder and longer. The more you use them the sharper they get. Studies showed that physical and emotional benefits of dancing are countless. Besides being a fun social activity, dancing can reduce stress, tension, anxiety, and even depression. It increases your confidence in social and business situations, and sharpens your control, agility, speed, and balance. It also increases your flexibility and stamina, strengthens your bones and cardiovascular system, and helps burn calories. From the article, Why ballroom dancing is good for you: mentally and physically, by Tai-hyung Kwon, Ph. D.
Dancing is a proven way to improve health. It activates brain cells, it is great exercise, and you meet people while having fun. It covers the mental physical and social aspects of well being.
Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter
For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise. More recently we've seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.
Then most recently we've heard of another benefit: Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter. A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one's mind can ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit. Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.
You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging. Here it is in a nutshell.
The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.
The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect. Other activities had none.
They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.
One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind. There was one important exception: the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent Ballroom Dancing.
Reading - 35% reduced risk of dementia
Bicycling and swimming - 0%
Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week - 47%
Playing golf - 0%
Ballroom Dancing frequently - 76%. That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or
And from from the study itself, Dr. Katzman proposed these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses. Like education, participation in some leisure activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving cognitive reserve.
Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed. If it doesn't need to, then it won't.
Do whatever you can to create new neural paths. The opposite of this is taking the same old well worn path over and over again, with habitual patterns of thinking and living our lives.
When I was studying the creative process as a grad student at Stanford, I came across the perfect analogy to this:
The more stepping stones there are across the creek, the easier it is to cross in your own style.
One way to do that is to learn something new! Take a class to challenge your mind. It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways. Difficult and even frustrating classes are better for you, as they create a greater need for new neural pathways.
Then take a dance class, which can be even better. Dancing integrates several brain functions at once, increasing your connectivity. Dancing simultaneously involves kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional processes.
Finally, remember that this study made another suggestion: do it often. If you can't take classes or go out dancing four times a week, then dance as much as you can. More is better.
And do it now, the sooner the better. It's essential to start building your cognitive reserve now. Some day you'll need as many of those stepping stones across the creek as possible. Don't wait — start building them now. From the Article, Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter, by Richard Powers
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