Dance has many physical benefits to our body. It strengthens our heart, lungs, muscles and bones. It helps with weight management and improves our coordination, agility and flexibility.
Dancing is not only good for our physical health. It is beneficial to our brain as well as our mental health. Perhaps it is the combination of the music and social interaction inherent in dancing that makes it such a great activity to incorporate in our lives. Music is thought to keep our brain young by improving mood, mental alertness, and memory. It has also been shown to improve sleep quality while lowering anxiety, blood pressure and pain. Any music that makes you feel happy is what is best for your brain. Healthy social interaction reduces stress and depression and enhances intellectual stimulation.
Dancing results in the release of many “feel good” hormones in our brains. Both music and dancing have been shown to release the reward hormone dopamine. While we connect and bond with people during dancing, the connection hormone oxytocin is released which regulates our emotional responses and pro-social behaviours. The physical action of dancing also releases serotonin, which makes us feel content and relaxed, and endorphins, which relieve pain and boost our mood.
There have been many studies demonstrating the positive effect of dancing on our brain and mental health. A review of randomized clinical trials investigating the effect of dance on neuroplasticity (published in the Journal of Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Review in 2019) showed that dance can strengthen neuronal connections between both sides of the brain and positively affects brain activity over the long term. A 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that, of the 11 different types of physical activity studied, only dance decreased the risk of dementia. A small study conducted by Minot State University in North Dakota in 2012 showed that Zumba, a workout program based on Latin music and world rhythms, improved mood, visual recognition and decision making. Dance was also shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression in a meta-analysis of 23 international studies, and participants tended to keep dancing after the studies had concluded. In fact, dance has been used as a treatment therapy for patients with depression and the movement disorder known as Parkinson’s Disease.
Dance is the optimal activity for both the body and the mind. The combination of body movement, music and social interaction counteracts the age-related decline in our physical and mental abilities. Taking dance lessons to learn steps and choreography helps develop those cognitive abilities even more. The best thing about dance is that is FUN, and you will reap the benefits from any genre that you decide to try. So just get up and dance. Your body, mind and soul will thank you!