Reprinted with permission from Jamie Marshall's "Let's Line Dance Tennessee!" Newsletter, May 1, 2014 Issue 2
Line dancing is more than simply getting some exercise. While many may start out with the intention of taking a session of classes for a few weeks, many more find themselves becoming addicted to line dancing because they love the music, the confidence that grows from mastering a dance, the friendships that start to form and more.
Dancing is a unique form of exercise because it provides the heart-healthy benefits of an aerobic exercise while also allowing you to engage in a social activity. This is especially stimulating to the mind, and one 21-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found dancing can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in the elderly. In the study, participants over the age of 75 who engaged in reading, dancing and playing musical instruments and board games once a week had a 7 percent lower risk of dementia compared to those who did not. Those who engaged in these activities at least 11 days a month had a 63 percent lower risk! Physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework were also studied. One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.
There was one important exception: the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing which lowered the risk by a dramatic 76 percent. Of all the physical activities, dancing involved the most mental effort. People who played the hardest gained the most: For example, seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a 47% lower risk of dementia than those who did the puzzles once a week. Playing golf – 0% Dancing frequently – 76%!
Why dancing? Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed. If it doesn’t need to, then it won’t. Why is dancing better than other activities for improving mental capabilities? We increase our mental capacity by exercising our cognitive processes. Intelligence: Use it or lose it. The essence of intelligence is making decisions. And the concluding advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style. One way to do that is to learn something new. Take a class to challenge your mind. It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways. Difficult and even frustrating classes are better for you, as they will create a greater need for new neural pathways. A dance class can be even better. Dancing integrates several brain functions at once, increasing connectivity. Dancing simultaneously involves kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional processes. Dance often! If you can’t take classes or go out dancing four times a week, dance as much as you can. More is better. And do it now, the sooner the better. It’s essential to start building your cognitive reserve now.
Joe Verghese who conducted the study says dancing may be a triple benefit for the brain. Not only does the physical aspect of dancing increase blood flow to the brain, but also the social aspect of the activity leads to less stress, depression and loneliness. Further, dancing requires memorizing steps which provides mental challenges that are crucial for brain health. 2
Medical researchers reported that dancing helps to:
*Reduce stress *Increase energy *Improve strength *Condition the body
*Increase muscle tone and coordination
*Lower your risk of coronary heart disease
*Improve cholesterol level *Strengthens bones
*Decrease blood pressure * Keeps you mentally fit
*Help you manage your weight
*Strengthen bones of your legs and hips
*Helps keep the heart in shape
*Builds and increases stamina
*Develops the circulatory system
*Increases flexibility and balance
*Provides cardiovascular conditioning
Physical benefits aside, dancing has a way of brightening up a person’s day by helping you develop strong social ties.
THE GOODNESS OF LINE DANCING
Quoted from UK’s Linedancer Magazine, September 2006 Issue, "Line Dancing improves stamina, muscle tone and coordination, is a great stress buster and energy booster. Good for posture, strength, mobility in the lower back, and toning calves and thighs. The British Heart Association says it is very beneficial to health and is recommended by doctors, invigorates all the major organs from the brain right down to the toes. Line dancers can cover around five miles of ground in one evening,"
Health Benefits of Dancing