Gene Kelly was “singing in the rain” but his joy was evident in his dancing as if he hadn’t a care in the world. No matter that it was raining, watching him glide through the streets made it seem like the sun was shining bright because of the warm feeling in your heart. Yes, dance is so much more than movement, dance is emotion and energy.
So, it should come as no surprise that dance is good for the brain. Yes, that is right, dance is not just good for your physical health, it is a boost for your mental health as well. As much as I love to dance, I would not make this stuff up. Because the science backs up the benefits of dance to the brain, it is now being used to treat people with Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological movement disorder. “There’s no question, anecdotally at least, that music has a very stimulating effect on physical activity,” says Daniel Tarsy, MD, an HMS professor of neurology and director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). “And I think that applies to dance, as well.” (Edwards, Scott “Dancing and the Brain” On The Brain Newsletter, HMNI)
In 2003, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine conducted a study which discovered that dance can decidedly improve brain health. The studies observed different types of leisure activities and the effect those activities have on the risk of dementia in the elderly. Of the 11 physical activities, only dancing was shown to reduce the participants’ risk of dementia. This was surprising to me as swimming, tennis and golf were among the activities studied. Not knocking those activities, just sharing the science in relation to lowering dementia risk. I must admit, this tidbit did have me dancing in my seat : D
Studies using PET imaging show that the region of the brain that is stimulated by dance affect the brain’s sensory and motor circuits, both in control of and coordination. Watch a fascinatingly beautiful video of 1960’s New York Ballet Prima Ballerina, Marta C. Gonzales, who has Alzheimer’s. Before you click on the link, be warned that it may bring tears to your eyes as it did mine: https://youtu.be/owb1uWDg3QM. Other studies show that dance reduces stress levels and may help battle depression due to the release of serotonin. Even dances emoting pain or sadness are described by the choreographers as therapy, a way to cope with those feelings.
Imagine my delight when I found a small study done by North Dakota’s Minot State University in which part of the study examined the effects of Zumba on an Elderly Female Population. Participation was twice weekly and the study showed that cognitive improvement occurred in a relatively short period of time. “Processing speed, cognitive flexibility and visual memory all improved.” (Terry Eckmann, PhD*, Vicki Michels, PhD and Donald Burke, PhD Department of Education and Kinesiology, USA, *Corresponding author: Terry Eckmann, Department of Education and Kinesiology,
USA) I know that I am easier to deal with after I’ve danced it out through a couple of Zumba classes. My hubby and three kids will tell you, they support my teaching Zumba because they know that it doesn’t just benefit me, it protects them!
So the next time it rains, I’ll meet you under the lamp post!