Want to give your brain a healthy workout? Turn on some upbeat music and dance!
Seriously, researchers are finding that dancing is great for your brain, in all kinds of ways. Studies show it helps you emotionally, mentally and physically.
“There’s so much research out there now about the benefits of dancing,” said Whitney Ray, director of wellness development for Carilion Clinic. “First, music in general activates your brain's reward center. Then the act of dancing helps your hand/eye coordination and basic brain cell function.”
Dancing, like any aerobic exercise, improves blood flow and is good for your heart and circulatory system. But it also creates joy, promotes social interaction and creates new neural pathways if you’re learning new steps and timing them to the music—all of which is good for your health.
Studies also suggest other benefits, said Ray. They include:
- Lowering your chance for dementia
- Releasing serotonin to help relieve stress
- Learning while you exercise helps your brain make new connections and improves cognitive function
- Concentrating on different movements activates many parts of your brain
- Dancing with others challenges the parts of your brain involved in social interactions
Ray is particularly excited about new research on dancing’s benefits for Parkinson’s patients. Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder, occurs when nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine and help to control movement die or don’t function properly.
“Studies are beginning to indicate that dance and exercise may help to preserve these nerve cells,” noted Ray.
Involving patients in a social activity like dancing is also good for their motivation.
“They become more engaged and are encouraged by seeing other people with their condition who can complete dance or exercise moves," explained Ray. "They think, 'Well, if they can do it, so can I.' "
So, whatever your age, if you’ve been timid about dancing in public, maybe it’s time to make the effort. It sounds like you definitely owe it to yourself!
Learn more about how exercise in general can make a difference in your life.