Wednesday, 14 August 2013

How Dancing Improves Your Health

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Do you enjoy dancing? Well you may be getting a variety of benefits you might not have otherwise known! There are numerous benefits to partaking in dance, whether it be by yourself, with a partner, or in a dance class. Not only does it increase your amount of daily exercise, but it also has incredible mental and emotional benefits as well!

The New England Journal of Medicine recently found that in elderly individuals, their risk of dementia was significantly reduced by over 76% simply by dancing frequently (compared to other activities, such as reading (35%), bicycling and swimming (0%), doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week (47%) or playing golf (0%)).

Why was dancing better than other activities for improving mental capabilities? Dancing often requires split-second rapid-fire decision making processes, and integrates several brain functions at once which increases the connectivity in the brain. Dancing simultaneously involves rational, kinesthetic, musical and emotional processes.

Dancing also helps with your flexibility, strength, endurance and overall sense of well-being! Dancers must strive to gain full range of motion for all the major muscle groups because with greater range of motion comes greater flexion and extension of the muscles. Many styles of dance also require jumping and leaping which require tremendous amount of muscle strength in major leg muscles. Endurance is the ability of muscles to work hard for longer periods of time without fatigue, and regular dancing helps improve your endurance (as with anything, such as running, walking, hiking, biking and swimming).

Dancing is effective in improving your self-esteem as well as reducing stress and depression. Emotionally, dancing improves self-awareness and self-confidence. It also can help strengthen the immune system through muscular action and physiological processes which can help prevent disease. Through dance, people can help identify and express their innermost emotions which creates a sense of renewal, unity and completeness.

Getting involved in dance is a great way to connect to mind, body and spirit. When I started dancing I felt at first, very sweaty and tired, but over time I became much more expressive in my dance. I got excited over the new moves and expressions I felt were a way of releasing tension, emotion and connecting to my inner self. It is incredibly fun and brings about an overall sense of happiness and bliss.

If you don’t know where to start dancing, you can turn on your favourite music and dance in your house, or you can even join a dance class locally or attend music festivals (which are rampant during summer). I am from Manitoba, so I will likely be checking out Folk Festival and the Manitoba Electronic Music Festival (MEME) which is the only annual event in Western Canada that highlights local and international electronic musicians at a free public venue. MEME is a festival that presents refined cutting edge electronic music performed using the latest in new creative technologies. MEME also features unique workshops for a full-day learning experience. If you live in the area (or anywhere for that matter), I highly suggest you come check it out!

For more information about this festival check out:

Sources: Live Love Fruit

Verghese, J., Lipton, R., Katz, M., Hall, C., Derby, C., Kuslansky, G., Ambrose, A., Sliwinski, M., & Buschke, H. (2003) Leisure activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly. The New England Journal of Medicine, 348, 2508-2516.

Jeong, Y., Hong, S., Lee, M., Park, M., Kim, Y., & Suh, C. (2005) Dance movement therapy improves emotional responses and modulates neurohormones in adolescents with mild depression. International Journal of Neuroscience, 115, 1711-1720.

Hopkins, D., Murrah, B., Hoeger, W., & Rhodes, C. (1990) Effect of low-impact aerobic dance on the functional fitness of elderly women. The Gerontologist, 30, 189-192.

Federici, A., Bellagamba, S., & Rocchi, M. (2005) Does dancing improve balance in adult and young old subjects? A pilot randomized controlled trial. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 17, 385-389.

Brown, S., Martinez, M., & Parsons, L. (2006) The neural basis of human dance. Cerebral Cortex, 16, 1157-1167.

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