How dancing can boost your brain power
Humans were dancing as long as 70,000 years ago - it’s instinctive behaviour to move our bodies to a beat. Maybe that’s because dance is proven to lower stress, boost mood and even sharpen cognitive function.
Dancing is a universal human activity that spans cultures worldwide. Throughout history, we've turned to dance not only for enjoyment but also as a communal means of coping with challenges. The rise of platforms like TikTok during the pandemic illustrates this—millions of us (grandparents included) learned dance routines in our living rooms.
Dancing provides more than just entertainment. It's a fusion of activities that engage various parts of the brain and body, carrying significant physical and psychological advantages. The act of dancing, regardless of how good or ‘bad’ we are, feels incredible liberating - there isn’t much better feeling than just letting your limbs move to a beat.
According to Harvard Medical School, dancing bolsters certain areas of the brain responsible for processing speed, working memory, and long-term memory. It can even lower the risk of dementia. A 2003 study by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine investigated the effect leisure activities, such as cycling, golf and tennis, had on the risk of dementia. They found that only dance lowered participants’ risk of dementia. According to the researchers, dancing involves both a mental effort and social interaction and that this type of stimulation helped reduce the risk of dementia.
Dancing can also improve other areas of brain function, such as visual recognition and decision-making.
Dance can significantly reduce cortisol levels in the body. For people struggling with anxiety or stress, dancing can help reduce stress levels and boost your mood. It’s also an activity that humans have used for centuries to get manage societal hardships. There is a way that communal movement together, or alone, can make us feel like we’re physically shaking off the anxiety.
Even before the digital era and the viral spread of TikTok routines, traditional dance has been a cornerstone of social interaction. A study in the Oxford Journal indicates that synchronised group dancing can foster feelings of social bonding. So, not only do you get physical benefits, but you also feel more connected to those around you. That might be why even in the parameters of lockdown, we still reached for dance routines to help us connect and strengthen our mind, body and connections.
Ever noticed that giddy feeling after a good dance session? There's a reason for that. Dancing releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. It’s the same reason why a good workout can leave you feeling on cloud nine. In a 2004 study, students spent 90 minutes dancing and practicing hatha yoga. Both yoga and dance helped reduce their stress and negative emotions, but dance also increased students’ positive emotions, while yoga didn’t have any effect.
Beyond mental wellness, dancing is a fantastic way to stay in shape. It improves cardiovascular health, increases stamina, strengthens bones and muscles, and aids in weight management. It’s like hitting the gym, but way more fun! Dance offers an all-encompassing approach to physical health. Regular engagement in dance routines fosters improvements in cardiovascular health, muscular strength, skeletal resilience, and overall metabolic efficiency.
Whether you’re busting a move on TikTok or doing a waltz in a ballroom, dancing is more than just a recreational activity. It's a passport to improved wellbeing, both mentally and physically. So next time you hear a beat, don’t shy away. Embrace it, move to it, and remember: every step you take is a step towards a healthier, happier you.
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