Studies have proven that dancing is beneficial not only for our bodies but also for our minds and overall well being. These studies reveal that starting to dance at any age can significantly improve our quality of life and brain function over any other type of physical exercise.
If dancing does present health benefits at all ages, then why not incorporate it into activities for older adults? If mobility is not an issue, who says there is an age where we should stop dancing?
Exercise brain muscles
Just thinking about dance steps and patterns uses the power of visualization which exercises brain muscles. The result of this ‘thinking’ is something called positive cognitive function. Professional dancers use this technique of visualization to ‘mark’ the spots while they prepare or rehearse a routine. Even in the aging years of life, anyone can develop the same cognitive ability naturally by learning dance. It will start when learning new steps and patterns are introduced. The brain will work to visualize the same steps when the music plays, in or out of the classroom.
Because dance requires the mind to remember patterns, steps, and sequences, we use cognitive functions of memory to remember what we’ve learned. The brain will start to create a catalog in its memory bank. The more often that these brain muscles are working, the more we improve and protect our minds from aging. Unlike weight training, running, or walking, dancing will continuously exercise this area of the brain, and it will begin to positively impact cognitive function in other areas of daily life without effort.
Prevent a fall, and feel less dizzy
Holding back from attempting a new physical activity like dancing can be related to poor balance or recurring dizzy spells. However, improving stability and learning something new will reduce dizzy spells and improve core strength which then increases one’s ability to prevent that next fall. So, how does it work? Learning any new form of dance, at any age, can improve our cerebellum coordination and function.
The cerebellum is responsible for receiving information from our spinal cord and sensory systems (what we see, smell, feel, taste and hear). It then regulates our motor movements accordingly. Think about it this way; the cerebellum coordinates the way the body behaves based on what the brain has interpreted.
So, if dancing improves cerebellum coordination and function, and the effect is fewer dizzy spells and falls, in essence, this means that the brain will help control the body’s physical response in situations when it needs to rely on balance and agility.
Improve joint mobility
Stiff and sore joints are known to be caused by a lack of movement. Moving arms and legs in dynamic, fluid ways help increase the body’s overall range of motion, more over than an activity like walking. Whether dance movements are big or small, the goal is that everyone wants to be able to move freely to be independent and autonomous. The body needs to practice being active within its unique range of motion to be able to move freely through all the usual human planes of motion. Dancing will expose a new learner to various ranges of motion, and it is up to the learner to modify and progress through the various movements.
It is more than a physical workout
Dancing is a physical activity, but it has also been proven to lead to positive effects for the entire sense of one’s well being. Ever dance by yourself in front of the bathroom mirror? How did you feel? Go on, give it a try. Even if you’re sitting down, or lying in bed, close your eyes and play a song in your head – how does it make you feel? Turn the music up and sing along, step tap, bob your head, let yourself be silly.
Dancing can help anyone to embrace the moment and feel ALIVE… even just for a moment. Now, imagine learning a new dance, meeting new friends, sharing that feeling with others who are also feeling it! It’s a beautiful thing to share.
You don’t need anything to dance
No equipment; tools, weights, machines. Nada. If you can move your body, you can dance. No experience is required to realize the benefits of dance on the mind, body, and soul.
And – the best part – it’s never too late to start. Try a dance class near you,or play music more often. Consider confiding in a friend or family member to embrace this part of the journey with you and have them share the experience.
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