Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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 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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