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Waltzing Your Way to Physical and Mental Fitness

From a mind-body per­spec­tive, any­thing you do suc­cess­ful­ly on the phys­i­cal end will pos­i­tive­ly affect your men­tal and emo­tion­al states.” com­ment­ed Jen­ny Suss­er, Ph.D., a sports psy­chol­o­gist at the Wom­en’s Sports Med­i­cine Cen­ter at New York City’s Hos­pi­tal for Spe­cial Surgery, a lead­ing cen­ter for sports med­i­cine. The arti­cle Dance Your Way To A Bet­ter Body goes on to say:

The social aspects of dance help to make it very attrac­tive for an increas­ing num­ber of peo­ple ver­sus, say, an ellip­ti­cal train­ing machine. Sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies are now also telling us that many things make danc­ing an excel­lent fit­ness reg­i­men with attrac­tive ben­e­fits,” said Pol­ly de Mille, exer­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist at the Wom­en’s Sports Med­i­cine Cen­ter at HSS.

Of course, bal­anced, tar­get­ed gym work­outs can pro­vide excel­lent fit­ness ben­e­fits as well but for some peo­ple, the “fun fac­tor” is miss­ing at the gym.

Those work­ing out in gyms are often plugged into their iPods or their read­ing mate­r­i­al, fol­low­ing their own reg­i­men. Those danc­ing, how­ev­er, are often mov­ing in uni­son, pos­si­bly fac­ing one anoth­er or touch­ing, and hav­ing a com­mu­nal expe­ri­ence. Con­nec­tion and coop­er­a­tion with oth­ers is inte­gral to the expe­ri­ence,” she said.

Dancing FeetThis com­bi­na­tion of phys­i­cal exer­cise and social con­nec­tion can also be a great stress reliev­er, anoth­er health ben­e­fit. But, to con­tin­ue on to a third out of the four pil­lars of health (phys­i­cal fit­ness, men­tal fit­ness, nutri­tion­al diet, and stress reduc­tion), danc­ing can pro­vide you excel­lent brain exer­cise as well. Dr. Joe Vergh­ese and col­leagues at the Albert Ein­stein Col­lege of Med­i­cine in New York found read­ing, play­ing board games, play­ing musi­cal instru­ments, and danc­ing were asso­ci­at­ed with a reduced risk of demen­tia.

Besides entic­ing folks to exer­cise and social­ize, line danc­ing can also keep the brain active because dancers must learn and remem­ber steps, [Hedy] McAdams says. It’s an appeal­ing mes­sage for her stu­dents, many of whom are in their 50s, 60s and even 70s.”

In order to learn a dance, you must use your atten­tion, sev­er­al types of mem­o­ry, motor coor­di­na­tion, sen­so­ry input, and exec­u­tive func­tions, like plan­ning. These activ­i­ties involve the frontal, tem­po­ral, pari­etal, and occip­i­tal lobes as well as the cere­bral cor­tex, lim­bic sys­tem, and cere­bel­lum.

If you need some help fig­ur­ing out which dance styles to try, check out this post on Dance Fit­ness at Sim­ply Anti-Aging or this one from families.com. One of them will get you going — whether it’s with a part­ner or with­out!

Get out there and cut a rug — you won’t just dance your way to a bet­ter body, you’ll dance your way to a bet­ter brain!

Relat­ed Links
Brain Anato­my
Phys­i­cal Fit­ness and Brain Fit­ness
Glos­sary of Brain Fit­ness Terms

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6 Responses

  1. Brett Long says:

    As a ball­room dance instruc­tor I’ve often been tempt­ed to tape the before and after effects of social danc­ing on my stu­dents. I had one lady who was a senior cit­i­zen and we’d hap­pened to take a pic­ture of her at a dance par­ty at the begin­ning of her lessons, frown­ing lack of con­fi­dence unable to focus. I think her hus­band had passed away and she felt she was unwant­ed by her chil­dren. (A bur­den). We hap­pened to take anoth­er pic­ture of her 5 weeks lat­er smil­ing, bub­bly, focused etc. I don’t know about per­ma­nent phys­i­cal or chem­i­cal changes to her brain but I do know she was hap­py and a much clear­er thinker for the social danc­ing and exer­cise. I for­get how much weight she lost but it was notice­able.
    What caught my atten­tion was when I was work­ing on her stu­dent chart and wound up putting the two pic­tures side by side. I labled them “before” and “after”. One small sam­ple of what i’ve seen of my, and oth­er teach­ers stu­dents men­tal and emo­tion­al improve­ment through social dance.

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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