Dance Your Way to a Healthier Brain
It may seem a no-brainer that dance can be good for your brain. After all, it is a form of physical exercise, and all physical exercises help your brain stay healthy. So why are we talking about dance today? What’s special about it?
Turns out, a lot. In addition to the many benefits of being a kind of aerobic exercise, dancing also has a separate and significant impact on a number of brain areas, including memory, cognitive functions, nerve cell health, and body-brain coordination. Below we discuss some of the most significant ways dancing can improve your brain health.
All physical activities help keep your brain sharp but not many can help reverse Dementia. Dance can. A new study by Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that dancing can directly influence and even stop age-related brain degeneration. If practiced regularly, dancing can lower the risk of developing Dementia and other memory-related diseases by a whooping 76%. Dancing has been found especially helpful in maintaining cognitive health in advanced age. So don’t shy away from getting out your dancing shoes on account of your age!
Neuroplasticity is the process through which brain neurons connect to each other and for information pathways. The more complex and interconnected our pathways are, the more robust our brain would get and keep over time. Unlike exercise regimes, dance is an art form, and therefore requires cerebral engagement as well as physical activity. Multiple studies have found that dancing improves neural connectivity between the two hemispheres of our brain, as well as activating different brain areas, thereby contributing to nerve growth.
When ballet dancers pirouette, it seems something superhuman. But that’s nothing but a result of years of practice in dance, which helps fine-tune our balance. Studies have found that years of dancing can substantially decrease the equilibrium response within our brains so that you rarely feel out of balance and are more in control of your posture and movements. Dancing is often used as therapy for this reason to help those suffering from dizziness or motor-movement related disorders.
Spatial and muscle memory
As we said, dancing is as much cerebral as physical, and one of the distinct cerebral processes is ‘marking’. Marking is what allows a dancer to plan a movement in his/her mind before or while performing it physically. It involves memorizing spatial and muscular cues. Ever seen a dancer standing on one place and remembering the piece she is about to perform with some symbolic moves? That is a process of visualization and muscle memory accumulation.
The process of marking has been found extremely beneficial in developing spatial and muscle memory, even in non-dance contexts like therapy for memory problems, nerve disorders, and Dementia. So if you are a dancer, you already have an organically developed habit of marking which will help consolidate your spatial and muscle memory capacities.
Dancing is an activity that combines two of the most helpful therapies for mental health patients – creative expression and physical exercise. Dancing has been proved to significantly alleviate Depression and Anxiety disorder symptoms. It releases several mood-lifter brain chemicals, activates our reward circuits, and allows creativity to flow. It is extremely unlikely that you’d feel down or depressed after a bout of dancing; it gives us a high.
Moreover, social dance styles like Salsa, Foxtrot, Waltz, etc. promote community interactions and interpersonal bonding, which is extremely beneficial for people suffering from Depression and isolation-related problems.
So if you are a professional dancer or even just a recreational one, keep on dancing regularly. If you are not, well what are you waiting for? Join a nearby class and start providing your brain with some added boost today!