The physical benefits of dance are well-known. From increased flexibility to greater coordination, dancing does great things for your body. But dance also has many benefits for the brain. In this article, we highlight some of the reasons why you should dance to give your mental and physical wellbeing a boost.
Movement can inspire you to come up with new ideas and improve your problem-solving ability. Researchers at Leiden University found that people who exercise regularly are able to think more creatively than those who lead a sedentary lifestyle, while a study from Stanford University showed that the cerebellum – the part of the brain that coordinates movement – is also responsible for making decisions.
Although walking, cycling and swimming are great options, dancing is even better for sparking creativity. By encouraging individual interpretation of music and choreography, dancing fosters imagination and teaches us it’s ok to take risks and explore differences.
With our ageing population, new therapies to treat dementia are needed now more than ever. But while doctors are cooking up a cure, make sure you don’t stop coming to class. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that senior citizens over 75 who dance regularly reduced the onset of dementia by 76% – twice as much as reading.
The type of dancing was also important. Freestyle dancing or improvising, which requires quick decision-making, was key to creating new neural pathways, which make it easier for the brain to store and access information. So while learning new routines in class is great for your neuroplasticity, dancing around your lounge room, going to a salsa club or cutting loose at a wedding are all great for maintaining cognitive function.
An experiment by Turkish researchers showed that dance was an effective way to treat depression. In their study, subjects who participated in a 12-week dance program reported lower levels of depression than those who didn’t dance.
By getting your cardiovascular system pumping, you’ll experience the rush of happy chemicals (dopamine and endorphins) that go with it. And although interacting with others might be the last thing you feel like, a dance class can help you connect with others. Going over steps, encouraging each other’s progress and even laughing at mistakes can help you make friends and reduce isolation.