Updated: Apr 29
We have talked about the undeniable physical benefits of dance. Here, we will explore the different Mental benefits dance has to offer.
BOOSTS COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE:
Cognitive functions include the domains of perception, memory, learning, attention, decision making, and language abilities. As you age, your cognitive performance can slows down dramatically. A lot of research has show that dance can actually help boost a person’s cognitive performance as they get older!
“…scientists have found that the areas of the brain that control memory and skills, such as planning and organizing, improve with exercise like dance.”
The fact that dance is an activity highly tied to music, driven by rhythm, and one that requires remembering sequences, cognitive performance (perception, memory, learning, attention, decision making) fires up and improves. Which brings us to…
CHALLENGING FOR THE BRAIN:
Imagine the brain power that’s needed to dance. You focus your attention on one person (instructor), retain information (learn the steps), recall the information (remember the steps in order), constantly move and shift your balance (constantly firing up the nervous system to keep you moving safe and uninjured), while listening to music and dancing to its rhythm.
“This is an excellent form of mental exercise for your mind, regardless of your age.”
REVERSES AGING SIGNS:
“As we grow older we suffer a decline in mental and physical fitness, which can be made worse by conditions like Alzheimer's disease. A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.”
If you or a loved one needed motivation to move, we hope this will be it for you. According to usagainstalzheimers.org, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds. This includes:
an estimated 5.6 million people age 65 and older.
approximately 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer's.
one in ten people (10 percent) age 65 and older has Alzheimer's disease.
about one-third of people age 85 and older (32 percent) have Alzheimer's disease.
"Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity," says Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany. "In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.”
Elderly volunteers (average 68 years old) were recruited for a study. For eighteen months, one group learned weekly dance routines, the other group had weekly endurance and flexibility training. Both groups showed improvement in the hippocampus region of the brain (memory and learning).
Dr Rehfeld explains, "We tried to provide our seniors in the dance group with constantly changing dance routines of different genres (Jazz, Square, Latin-American and Line Dance). Steps, arm-patterns, formations, speed and rhythms were changed every second week to keep them in a constant learning process. The most challenging aspect for them was to recall the routines under the pressure of time and without any cues from the instructor.”
Doctors credit this extra challenge as the reason for dance having a bigger positive impact to a person’s overall balance.
"I believe that everybody would like to live an independent and healthy life, for as long as possible. Physical activity is one of the lifestyle factors that can contribute to this, counteracting several risk factors and slowing down age-related decline. I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age."
TAKE AWAY: Dance doesn't just benefit you physically. Your brain's activity is improved dramatically by adding dance to your lifestyle. Challenge yourself to at least take one dance class a week, even from home! You can certainly take advantage of our dance workouts. You will find workouts that are dance inspired, and you will find workouts that will feel like a dance class.
Dance on, friend!
NEXT BLOG: The Emotional Health Benefits of Dance