Health benefits of dance

Darc 2010

These days, people love to watch other people dance. Competitive dance shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars or competitions here at home like SPAN/IDO: street dance battle and salsa show dance competition are dominating the entertainment world.

What you may not realize, however, is that dancing a great way to keep your body and mind healthy. Studies show that dancing can do a host of things which we will examine closely in this article.

Boost Memory

According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, dancing may boost your memory and prevent you from developing dementia as you get older.

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.

        Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia

        Bicycling and swimming – 0%

        Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47%

        Playing golf – 0%

        Dancing frequently – 76%:  That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

If the essence of intelligence is making decisions, then a valid question would be … how do you develop such a skill?

Involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style. One way to do that is to learn something new.

Image02838Take a class to challenge your mind.  It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways.  Difficult classes are better for you, as they will create a greater need for new neural pathways.

Improve Flexibility

Flexibility is an important part of being healthy. Most dance classes begin with a warm-up including several stretching exercises. Most forms of dance require dancers to perform moves that require bending and stretching, so dancers naturally become more flexible by simply dancing. Increasing your flexibility will help ease joint pain and post-exercise soreness.

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Reduce Stress

Dancing to slow music, with a tempo that is easy to follow, or dancing to a fast beat are equally wonderful ways to relieve stressful times provided you enjoy yourself. Allow yourself to feel the music, move your arms, and sway your body. Enjoy the movements as you stretch your arms, and your body to release all tension.

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Recently, a paper published in the American Journal of Dance Therapy linked tango training, meditation and exercise with reductions in stress and improvements in insomnia.

Diminish Depression

Dancing really does lift your spirits, according to a study in that tested the effects of dancing on people with depression.

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Research tells us that dancing improves mood in the following ways:

  1. Gives you an endorphin boost from exercise
  2. Increases self confidence
  3. Improves social skills
  4. Expands your social network
  5. Lifts your spirits
  6. Reduces depression
  7. Laugh at yourself (you will make mistakes)
  8. Keeps you in the moment.

Feeling a lil’ depressed? Grab a friend and go dancing.

 Help Your Heart

For someone with mild to moderate heart failure, dancing lessons may be the perfect gift this season.

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In a study, people with heart failure who took up waltzing breathed better, exercised longer, and generally felt better.

Dancing boosted heart health just as much as exercise, says researcher Romualdo Belardinelli, MD, a professor of cardiology at Università Politecnica delle Marche School of Medicine and director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at Lancisi  Heart Institute in Ancona, Italy.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2006.

 Lose Weight

Bored with your bicycle? A study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that an exercise program of aerobic dance training is just as helpful for losing weight and increasing aerobic power as cycling and jogging.

In fall 2012, Roni Tarver was in a bad mood.

The 5-foot-6-inch teacher weighed 235 pounds and suffered back pain almost constantly. She was popping 10 to 15 ibuprofen daily, which took a toll on her stomach. It didn’t help that she was on her feet most of the day and dealing with the stress and exhaustion of being a relatively new teacher.

Her husband never once said anything about her weight, which made her feel worse about not taking care of herself. She had quit smoking, but knew she needed to get active because climbing stairs still left her winded.

January 3rd, 2013, she signed up for her first Zumba class.

roni-tarver

It was the beginning of her new life.

 Balance Better

If you are nervous about falling as you get older, some dance lessons might help ease your worries, according to a study in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity that showed tango dancing can improve balance in aging adults. Dancing requires a lot of fast movement and good posture, so frequent dancing will help you stabilize and gain better control of your body.

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Increase Energy

Can’t seem to find your get-up-and-go? Taking a dance class might help.

hip hop 2009 darc jenn,frk, uk

Research published in The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition found that a weekly dance program could improve physical performance and increase energy levels among adults.

Dancing provides heart-healthy aerobic exercise, which increases energy by improving blood flow, in an upbeat environment that includes music and the opportunity to socialize with others. Because you have to focus to keep up with the coordinated movements and steps required in dance, dancing also provides a mentally stimulating workout.

Make Friends

latin 2009 darc

A dance class is the perfect setting to make new friends and branch out socially. Maintaining positive relationships may just rank up there with healthy eating and exercise. Being socially engaged leads to increased happiness, reduced stress, and a stronger immune system.

Ref:

WebMd, CNN, DARC festival (SPAN exchange program)

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