When it comes to exercise, many people will put it off because they don’t enjoy it.
For every person who loves to run, there is another who says “If I’m running, it’s because something is chasing me”.
And for everyone who loves to start their day at the gym lifting heavy weights, there is another who would rather sit at the kitchen table with a coffee and the newspaper.
But we all know exercise is good for us – something we should be doing, even if we can’t find the motivation to get started.
Most people who exercise will say you just need to find the right thing for “you”.
And for many people who don’t love “traditional” exercise, dance is just the thing to help get them moving.
Who among us doesn’t instinctively start moving and grooving when their favourite song comes on the radio?
Who can’t help but start to tap their toes to a great beat?
Dance for many is the way to make exercise fun and enjoyable.
So, whether it’s ballet or ballroom, folk dancing or the foxtrot, let’s have a look at why you should consider adding dance to your exercise repertoire, beyond just the physical benefits associated with exercise.
How Does Dance Help Your Brain?
You might be asking “Why dance, when I can just go for a run?”
Dancing has been shown to help maintain cognitive function as we age.
Let’s have a look at some of the ways dancing improves our brain.
Dance Lowers Your Risk Of Developing Dementia
One study compared different types of exercise to look at their effects on brain health.
It compared dance to other forms of exercise including tennis, golf, swimming, and cycling.
Of all exercises looked at in this study, only dance appeared to lower the risk of dementia in participants.
This appears to be due to the fact that dance involves more than just a physical effort, it also requires mental labour, as well as promotes social interaction.
Dance Improves Your Cognitive Function
In one study, older adults who had a sedentary lifestyle were introduced to a Latin ballroom dance program.
Participants then said they found they had improved focus, attention and memory.
Another study, in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found dance to be beneficial for improving working memory, verbal fluency, and cognition in older adults.
When you think about it, there is a lot more your brain needs to do when you dance, versus other forms of exercise.
You need to:
- Follow the beat and rhythm of the music
- Remember the steps
- Move in sync with your partner
- Turn and stop on a dime
The dance program Zumba, in particular, was found to improve skills like visual recognition and decision making.
Dance Helps Slow The Progression of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a motor system disorder which can lead to loss of coordination, stiffness, shaking, and trouble walking.
A 2021 study in the journal Brain Sciences found symptoms of Parkinson’s disease were slowed in those who participated dance classes once a week over a period of three years.
Canadian filmmaker Karen Suzuki looks at this in her award winning documentary Synapse Dance, which takes an inside look at the “Dancing With Parkinson’s” program through the National Ballet School of Canada.
Dance has been shown to help individuals with Parkinson’s by:
- Improving flexibility
- Reducing tremors
- Promoting better balance and coordination
- Improving gait
If you’re ready to try your feet at dance, but don’t want to join up in person in a studio, then there are lots of virtual classes you can do from the comfort of your home, such as the Senior Dance Fit run by St Clair Dance Collective.
Other Benefits of Dance
If better cognition and a lower risk of Parkinson’s and dementia isn’t enough for you, dance can also help to:
- Motivate and inspire you
- Increase strength
- Reduce stress
- Gives you greater endurance
- Improve your posture
- Enhance your balance
- Improve your mood, by increasing serotonin levels in the brain
So what are you waiting for? Lace up your shoes, put some music on, and get ready to boogie down!