Dance Like No One’s Watching

There’s an undeniable allure to the freeing experience of dance but did you know those exuberant moves also provide a wealth of health benefits? In the quest for a healthier and more fulfilling life, after walking, the one activity that stands out as a universal and timeless remedy is dancing. Regardless of age, dancing has the remarkable ability to not only invigorate the spirit but also promote physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. This article explores the myriad health benefits of dancing and provides insights from research and some creative ways to incorporate dance into daily life.

Longevity:  A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association tracked over 48,000 adults for almost 15 years. They found that dancers had a significantly reduced risk of death compared to non-dancers and walkers. Another study from the New England Centenarian Study found that men embracing dance or vigorous exercise had a 62% reduced risk of dementia compared to less active counterparts. Pretty impressive anti-ageing power in staying light on your feet!

Physical Fitness:  Dancing is an exceptional full body workout that engages multiple muscle groups improving muscle tone and strength, it enhances flexibility, and also improves cardiovascular health. The older we get, the more important it is to maintain physical fitness. A study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity (Taylor & Francis, 2018) found that regular dance sessions contribute to increased endurance, strength, and balance in older adults. These attributes help maintain mobility and function as we age. Other studies have shown dance interventions reduce falls among older adults by over 37%.

Cognitive Benefits:  Perhaps the biggest boosts from dancing are mentally and emotionally. Dance, essentially the physical expression of music, lights up sensory and motor circuits stimulating the brain. Multiple neuroimaging studies associate regular dance with increased neuroplasticity, cognitive reserve, attention ability and neural connectivity. Research from the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience journal (Frontiers Media, 2017) suggests that dance can help mitigate age-related cognitive decline. The complex movements involved in dance stimulate neural pathways, enhancing memory and cognitive abilities. All this suggests that dancing is a powerful ally in preserving cognitive function.

Mood Enhancement:  Dance has the magical ability to uplift the spirit and alleviate stress. The Journal of Positive Psychology (Taylor & Francis, 2016) reports that dancing triggers the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormones, contributing to a positive mood and offering a natural and enjoyable way to boost emotional well-being. A meta-analysis concluded dance uniquely expresses itself as therapy, enhancing psychological wellbeing and quality of life.

Social Connection:  Loneliness and social isolation can negatively impact health at any age. Dancing provides an excellent avenue for social engagement. Whether joining a dance class or participating in community dance events, the social component of dance has been linked to improved mental health, as noted in a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (American Public Health Association, 2014).

Balance and Fall Prevention:  Maintaining balance becomes crucial as we age to prevent falls and injuries. A systematic review in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity (Human Kinetics, 2019) suggests that dance interventions significantly enhance balance and reduce the risk of falls in older adults.

Getting started: Now that you know the profound benefits that come from a dance habit, the next question is, “how can you incorporate more dance into your life?” Here are some easy ways to get grooving:

The beauty of dance lies in its diversity. From ballroom and salsa to line dancing and hip-hop, there’s a dance style for everyone. Exploring varied dance styles adds an element of novelty, stimulating both the body and mind.

However, not everyone may be comfortable joining a dance class or going to social dance events. The good news is that you can still reap the benefits of dance from the comfort of your home. Online platforms offer a plethora of dance tutorials suitable for all skill levels. Choose a style that resonates with you and dance along at your own pace.

Many community centres, gyms, and dance studios offer classes which often cater to different fitness levels and are provided in a welcoming and supportive environment. Joining a community dance class not only improves physical health but also provides an opportunity to make new friends and share the joy of dance.

Last but not least, we can all integrate dance into our daily routine. Whether it’s swaying to music while cooking, having a quick dance session during work breaks, cavorting around to the radio while doing the chores or enjoying an evening dance with a partner, these small moments can accumulate into significant health benefits over time.

Summary:

The style of dance matters far less than making daily movement part of your lifestyle. Dancing works for every age and athletic ability so remember, you don’t have to be skilled; simply enjoy being your authentic, feel-good self through dance. The saying goes, ‘dance like no one’s watching’!  It’s not just a catchy phrase but a profound invitation to embrace the joy and vitality that dance can bring into our lives and offers a holistic approach to health and well-being. The evidence backed benefits of dancing, from physical fitness to cognitive well-being, make it a compelling and enjoyable prescription for a fulfilling and vibrant life. So, put on your favourite tunes and dance your way to a healthier, happier you.

References:

Merom et al. Dancing participation and cardiovascular disease mortality…Journal of the American Medical Association. 2016

Verghese et al. Leisure activities and risk of vascular cognitive impairment…New England Centenarian Study. 2003.

Rodrigues-Krause et al. Dancing and Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2022.

Dos Santos et al. Dance for Older Adults: A Systematic Review of Benefits and Recommendations. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. 2022.

Hubbard et al. Dance Enhances Physical Function in Older Persons…Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. 2021.

Muir et al. The Effect of a Dance-Based Intervention on Physical Performance in Older Women…Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. 2022.

Dhami et al. The Effects of Different Exercise Modalities on Cognitive Function in Healthy Older Adults…Preventive Medicine Reports. 2015.

Bräuninger. Brain and Dance – The Effects of Dance Interventions on Motor Functions…Neural Plasticity. 2022.

Karkou et al. The effects of dance movement therapy and dance on health-related psychological outcomes: A meta-analysis…The Arts in Psychotherapy. 2021.