Posts made in October, 2013

Dance Like No One Is Watching

Dancing is great for your mental health

When was the last time you went out to dance? Are you one of those people who always make excuses in the dance floor, saying they ‘don’t know how to dance’? The truth is – unless you are a performer, there’s no right or wrong way to shake that booty. Pumping it up and dancing with all your heart does not only make you look good, it also makes you feel incredibly good. In this article, let’s look on how dancing can benefit your mental health.

Perhaps the most obvious reason why dancing boosts brain health is because it’s also a form of exercise. It’s no brainer that exercise is good for our mental health. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins – natural chemicals that boost your mood. But if you think that’s all dancing does, you’re wrong. Recently, researchers at Imperial College London reported differences in the brain of ballet dancers that help them avoid feeling dizzy whilst performing pirouettes. Their study, which was published in the journal Celebral Cortex, suggests that years of training enable dancers to suppress signals from the balance organs in the inner ear that are linked to the cerebellum – the region of the brain that plays an important role in motor control. This has important implications in improving treatments for people suffering from chronic dizziness. According to the researchers, one in 4 people experience this condition at some time in their lives. Well, you don’t have to be a ballet dancer to achieve this incredible benefit. You can incorporate dancing in your lifestyle, as a fun and effective way to boosts the function of your cerebellum, especially during the days when the usual gym activities appear unattractive and boring for you.

The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, and other professional dancers, make it appear to the audience that gliding across the stage seems so effortlessly. But actually, learning dance steps is both physically and mentally demanding. Still, dancers appear to have a stronger resistance to mental strain brought by practising their steps. That’s the message of another study, published in the journal Psychological Science. It revealed that dancers develop the ability to do complex moves by walking through them slowly and encoding the movement with a cue through ‘marking’. According to the researchers, marking may reduce the conflict between the cognitive and physical aspects of dance practice, which in turn, allows dancers to memorise and repeat steps more fluidly.

Edward Warburton, the lead author of the study and Professor of dance at the University of California, Santa Cruz, explained that learning and rehearsing a dance piece requires concentration. Marking involves a run-through of the dance routine, with a focus on the dance itself, and not making the perfect movements. This type of visualisation and marking, added Prof Warburton, could be used to maximise performance across many fields and areas of life. The researchers didn’t know that whether the same effects could be seen in other types of dance, but they said it is possible that this area of research could extend to other kinds of activities.

Other Health Benefits of Dancing

Improved physical health

Health experts recommend dancing for an aerobic workout, as it provides cardiovascular conditioning which does not only promote weight control but also reduces blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Other physical benefits of dancing are improved balance, stamina and flexibility, and increased muscle strength.

It helps slow ageing

Researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast found that dancing, particularly social dancing, can counter some of the natural, physical and mental symptoms of ageing. According to them, social dancing promotes a continued engagement in life, which promotes longevity. It also helps reduce social isolation, as well as pains and aches frequently experienced in old age.

It may lower risk of dementia

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010 suggests that people who regularly dance have lower incidence of dementia than those who rarely dance. According to Dr Joe Verghese, the research author, this mental benefit may be due to several factors. He explained that the sequencing, memorising steps, and timing body movements to the music engages many areas of the brain. Another is the increased blood flow to the brain, plus the social and emotional benefits which include lower stress levels, depression and loneliness.

So why not dance? You can dance with a group, with a partner, or on your own. You can do it indoors or outdoors. Dancing is such a fun and enjoyable way to stay active and fit. So what are you waiting for? Turn on the music nice and loud and be ready to pump it up!

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