When you think of learning ballroom dances such as the Tango, the Cha Cha or a Country Waltz, you may imagine the benefits stop when you leave the dance floor, but you would have only half the story if you believed that. In reality, the benefits of doing the Lindy Hop or the Fox Trot linger long after the last note of the music ends. In this week’s blog from the Arthur Murray Studios in the D.C. area, we’ll look at all the lasting benefits of dance. The benefits of dance work for all age groups but for those over the age of 50 there are age defying benefits that we will focus on this week.
Good Posture is Key to Good Health
Having good posture is a key element of good health. There is a saying that the health of your spine reflects your overall health, and a recent trend in athletics on the topic of core exercise back this up. When you have a strong core, the rest of your body reaps the benefits. When you hold your spine in the correct posture you will have fewer backaches, and any nerve impingements can be minimized. As you age, you can easily fall into the tendency to not keep up with your physical fitness as much as you once did. Kids, jobs, and injuries can keep you from the gym, and the subsequent weakening can lead to injury and other complications. Making sure your posture is good is essential as you age since there are so many things that can work against your overall health. If you have a strong back, with good posture being reinforced by dance classes, you can improve your overall health. When you keep your back muscles working and moving, you are keeping them warm and flexible, and so your back will be less stiff, and any vertebral issues can be more easily addressed.
Motion is Lotion
Staying physically fit through dancing is also good for your joints. Because most ballroom dance is low impact, it can be done by people with mild arthritis, and the motion can be beneficial. When you stop moving because of pain, the muscles that your joint depends on for support can atrophy and lead to a worsening of the condition. While you might not be a great candidate for the lIndy Hop right away, people who suffer from arthritis can benefit from the motion that dance requires. Discuss it with your doctor if you are unsure. You can also inquire about treatments such as hyaluronic acid injections in your knees that can return your knees to action. Motion increases the flow of blood and nutrients to your joints and works to reduce stiffness.
Dancing is Good for Neuroplasticity
If you haven’t heard the term neuroplasticity, then you have been throwing away your AARP newsletters and muting all the commercial on the shows you watch. This exciting buzzword is all about keeping your brain active and learning. This is why everything from learning a new language to doing Sudoku is recommended. When your brain is forming new neural pathways, it is actively reorganizing connections. The connection points in these pathways are synapses and when these connections are allowed to deteriorate there are increased chances of dementia. According to Dementia Today, even patients with Alzheimer's Disease (or maybe especially these people) can benefit from activities that increase neural plasticity. According to the Alzheimer's Project, dance works to increase brain activity because it activates multiple parts of the brain simultaneously. They state that “Dancing simultaneously involves kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional processes.” In fact, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine studied the effects of a variety of activities to see which one had the most benefit for neural plasticity. Reading showed a 35% reduced risk of dementia and playing golf a 0% benefit, but dancing showed a 76% risk reduction. That is staggeringly significant! It’s understandable, though, that when your brain is learning new things, and moving both sides of the body that cross-hemispheric activity would be increased and the whole brain is stimulated, and so protected against dementia.