When was the last time you danced? Perhaps at a friend’s birthday party? Sharing a romantic moment with your partner when you hear a favorite song from your youth? Or maybe you regularly dance in the kitchen as you cook? Whatever the reason, if you’re dancing regularly, you’re doing your health a huge service—particularly your brain health.
Come to think of it, dance is a great form of self-expression and a great way to exercise your entire body. It stimulates your imagination all while toning your muscles and making your heart pump up the blood. As you are having fun at that salsa lesson on the beach or a ballroom dance class at your local community center, you’re actually making your brain work hard to learn new choreography, coordinating your movements, and following the beat of the music. (Get a razor-sharp brain at any age.)
Dance events are often meeting places for other like-minded people. It’s a great opportunity to go out and socialize with people who share something in common with you. Even if you aren’t very good at dancing, you can make friends with people who can teach you how to dance or you can join a crowd of rookies like you and have fun making mistakes and learning things together. The overall experience is all around positive (and those “feel-good” hormones released during physical activities are there at work all the way).
It’s easy to understand the benefits of dance for physical and mental health, and now there’s evidence demonstrating that dancing regularly can slow the aging processes in the brain.
A team of researchers from Colorado State University, the University of Illinois at Urbana, Northwestern University, and other institutions looked at the impact of various activities on the brain function of 174 healthy participants aged between 60 and 79, most of them living a sedentary lifestyle. The study subjects were divided into four control groups: country western dancing, walking, walking and diet changes, and stretching and toning. Over the course of six months, they took part in the assigned activity and the effects of these interventions were assessed using MRI.
The results showed a decline of white matter in the brains of all participants, but an increase in the country dance group. White matter is a tissue in the brain and spinal cord involved in learning and brain functions. (10 different ways to help protect, nourish, and maximize brain power!)
Seniors who do social dancing on a regular basis report a feasible difference not only in their memory but also in their agility when compared to their less active friends. Remembering all the steps and sequences of a new routine helps keep their recall sharp, while the active lifestyle makes them feel younger.
So, if learning how to dance has always been your dream, now is the perfect time to make that dream come true. It’s never too late to try on something that you’re been longing for all your life, and if this makes you healthier and younger, what are you waiting for?