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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 November 20, 2020

Kickstart Your Morning Workout With These 10 Simple Habits

Kickstart Your Morning Workout With These 10 Simple Habits

Benjamin Franklin said it like this: “Early to bed, early to rise, will make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” He knew from his own experiences and watching others that the ones who got up early were healthier and more successful. That’s why a morning workout can be so important.

One 2017 study found that:[1]

“after controlling for such factors as age, sex, smoking habits, and others…night owls, were found to have a 10 percent greater risk of dying from any cause compared to morning types.”

This is a great reason to tap into some morning motivation and get your morning workout done.

Circadian Rhythm for morning workout

    As you can see in the above graph, your blood pressure begins to rise between 6 and 7 in the morning[2]. That means this is a great time to get your body moving and your heart pumping, even if it’s just for 20 minutes of exercise in the morning. 

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    Here are some tips on how to find the motivation for a morning workout.

    1. Remember Your Why

    It starts with remembering why you want to get up for a morning workout. If you don’t set a goal and establish your reasons for accomplishing a health and fitness goal, then you definitely won’t get up early.

    Getting up early isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would do it, right? Your goal for your health and fitness must be so strong, and the WHY behind it must be so powerful, that nothing will stop you from accomplishing that goal.

    2. Go to Bed Early

    If you want to get up early for a morning workout, it’s going to be important to get to bed earlier. Falling asleep at midnight and trying to get up at six just won’t work in your favor.

    This will likely be very difficult for a few days while you adjust your sleeping habits. However, as you get into an exercise routine in the morning, this will naturally make it easier to fall asleep earlier and faster at night.

    3. Make a Commitment

    I sometimes tell my Facebook community of my plans to work out, and we all keep each other motivated by posting our runs, our workouts, etc. This is a way to develop accountability. By publicly announcing your intentions, you increase your chances of actually carrying out your plans.

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    Another way to do this is to find an accountability partner who has similar goals for morning workouts. You can check in with each other to make sure you’re sticking to your plans. If that doesn’t work, hire a personal trainer for a few weeks to get you started.  

    You can learn how to find a good accountability partner here.

    4. Find a Friend

    If you can find a friend that is motivated like you are, and you can hold each other accountable daily to working out, then you will accomplish your fitness goals. Many people prefer working out with friends to working out alone. Whether it’s a chat while hitting the treadmill at the gym, or having someone to spot you while weightlifting, working out with friends is sometimes just more enjoyable.

    Texting each other the night before with a simple statement is best. Don’t ask: “Are we still working out in the morning?” With this kind of question, if they were thinking about not working out, you just gave them an opt out.

    Make a statement instead: “Can’t wait to see you in the morning!” This implies that they will be there, and they will feel more obligated to show up.

    5. Treat Yourself

    We all have to treat ourselves every now and then. After a morning workout, plan to treat yourself with a colorful, healthy breakfast or a delicious morning smoothie. This will help you look forward to something and push through to the end of your workout.

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    You can learn more on rewards and punishments here.

    6. Change your Mindset

    Many people throw away the idea of a morning workout by simply saying, “I’m not a morning person.”  Instead of using this excuse, decide to try to become a morning person by shifting your mindset.

    When you look into the benefits of waking up early and getting some exercise in before your day starts, you’ll feel more positive about your life overall.

    7. Plan Your Day

    You know you’re going to be busy. Try time blocking to plan all the things you need to do on a given day, and make sure you add in your morning workout[3]. If you have a plan laid out, you’ll be more likely to follow it and get done everything on your list done.

    Time blocking

      8. Reflect on How You’ll Feel After

      Starting a morning workout is hard, but visualizing how you’ll feel after can help you find motivation. Think about the extra energy you’ll have and how proud you’ll feel knowing that you were already so productive. No matter what you do the rest of the day, at least you squeezed in your exercise!

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      For me, I live in an area where there are a lot of runners. When I am heading home in the evening or sitting out on the patio at one of my favorite restaurants, and I see the runners go by, it makes me feel so accomplished that I got mine in that morning and I can enjoy the evening.

      9. Lay out Your Workout Clothes

      Setting out your workout clothes the night before makes it impossible for you to start to run late because you couldn’t find something to wear. Tap into the determination you have before bed in order to convince your less-than-motivated morning self that you need to get up and get your morning workout in. When you wake up and see your outfit laid out next to you, it’ll push you to get up and get moving.

      10.  Set Multiple Alarms

      Many people miss their morning workout simply because they hit the snooze button so many times. In order to make this more difficult for yourself, set a series of alarms. That way, if you keep hitting snooze, you’ll have three or four alarms going off every ten minutes, which will be annoying enough to get you out of bed.

      Also, put one alarm at least a few feet from your bed so that you’re forced to get up to turn it off.

      Final Thoughts

      About three years ago I went from being the person that says I will never be an early riser to a person that loves to get the day started as soon as possible. Without the distractions that begin to come around 8 or 9 in the morning, you’ll find that you’re more productive and more likely to squeeze in that morning workout.

      Take some of the actions above and find the best morning workout routine to start your day and feel good.

      More Tips on Morning Exercises

      Featured photo credit: Tomasz Woźniak via unsplash.com

      Reference

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