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5 Things That Will Happen To Your Brain When You Dance

5 Things That Will Happen To Your Brain When You Dance

Those of you who like to get your groove on on the dance floor will probably be surprised to find out that you are doing yourself a world of good. Dancing is more than just an enjoyable activity to experience with friends or your partner; dancing has the amazing ability to improve the way your brain functions. Let’s look at five exciting things that dancing can do to your brain.

It’ll enhance neuroplasticity

A study led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted over a period of 21 years and looked at senior citizens 75 years and older. The researchers measured mental acuity in aging by monitoring rates of dementia. The aim of the study was to find out if any physical or cognitive recreational activities had an effect on mental acuity.

The study found that some cognitive activities influence mental acuity, but almost none of the physical activities had had any effect. The one exception was frequent dancing. Some findings of the studies were:

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  • Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia
  • Bicycling and swimming – 0% reduced risk of dementia
  • Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47% reduced risk of dementia
  • Playing golf – 0% reduced risk of dementia
  • Dancing frequently – 76% reduced risk of dementia

People who dance regularly have greater cognitive reserves and an increased complexity of neuronal synapses, explained neurologist Dr. Robert Katzman. Dancing lowered the risk of dementia by improving these neural qualities. Dancing may cause the brain to continually rewire its neural pathways and by doing so help with neuroplasticity.

It’ll make you more intelligent

What is meant by intelligence? If our response to a given situation is automatic (the stimulus-response relationship is automatic) then it is generally accepted that intelligence is involved. When the brain evaluates various reasonable responses and deliberately chooses one response, the process is considered to be intelligent. Jean Piaget stated that intelligence is what we use when we don’t already know what to do.

To put it simply, the essence of intelligence is making decisions. To improve your mental acuity, it is best to involve yourself in an activity that demands split-second, rapid decision making. Dancing is an example of a fast-paced activity that demands speedy decision making. It requires instant responses to questions like Which way to turn? What speed to move your body? and How to react to your partner’s movements? Dancing is an excellent way to maintain and enhance your intelligence.

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It’ll improve your muscle memory

The article The Cognitive Benefits of Movement Reduction: Evidence From Dance Marking states that dancers can achieve complex moves more easily when they undergo the process of “marking”—walking through movements slowly and encoding each movement with a cue.

Researcher Edward Warburton, a former professional ballet dancer, and his colleagues looked at the “thinking behind the doing of dance.” They published their findings in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. They found that marking lessened the conflict between the cognitive and physical aspects of dance, and doing so gave the dancers a chance to memorize and repeat moves with greater fluidity.

It was concluded that visualizing movements and marking can help improve muscle memory. This type of visualization and marking, learned through dance, can also be used across a variety of fields to optimize performance.

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It’ll slow down aging and boost memory

Dr. Katzman believes that the more complex our neuronal synapses are, the better. He believes that you should do whatever you can to create new neural paths, and dancing is a great way to do this.

As you get older, brain cells die and synapses become weaker. Nouns, like names of people, are harder to remember because there is only one neural pathway that leads us to this stored information.

If you work on learning new things, like dance, you can work on building different mental routes and many paths. So if one path is lost as a result of age, you have an alternative path that you can use to access stored information and memories.

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It’ll help prevent dizziness

Have you ever wondered why ballet dancers don’t get dizzy when they perform pirouettes? Research suggests that through years of practice and training, dancers gain the ability to suppress signals from the balance organs in the inner ear that are linked to the cerebellum.

Dr. Barry Seemungal of the Department of Medicine at Imperial explains that “It’s not useful for a ballet dancer to feel dizzy or off balance. Their brains adapt over years of training to suppress that input. Consequently, the signal going to the brain areas responsible for perception of dizziness in the cerebral cortex is reduced, making dancers resistant to feeling dizzy.”

If you suffer from dizziness, then making time in your schedule for any form of dance is a good way to address this problem. Dancing will help improve the function of your cerebellum, which in turn may help you improve your balance and make you less dizzy. You do not need to be a professional dancer to benefit from this sport. Dancing at all levels will help.

Conclusion

Dance can be a great way to maintain and improve many of your brain functions. Dance can increase your neural connectivity because it integrates several brain functions at once; rational, musical, kinesthetic, and emotional. This increased neural connectivity can be of great benefit to your brain as it ages. So, dance now and dance often!

Featured photo credit: teo_ladodicivideo via flickr.com

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Rebecca Beris

Rebecca is a wellness and lifestyle writer at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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