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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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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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