If you read my recent article “Music For Therapy“, we covered
the incredible, all-encompassing power of music! It can bring you up…it can bring you down….it can turn you round and round! Yea, that’s it, I just want to dance! Since the beginning of time, when early humans first stepped foot on this beautiful earth of ours, we all have been fascinated with the all-encompassing nature of dancing too, ever since!
Dances of earlier times were performed for various reasons, such as in religious ceremonies, or shamanic rituals like honoring the Gods such as to bring rain in times of drought, or in healing ceremonies and rituals, or to celebrate festivals during the year, such as harvest time, births, and weddings, or for social engagement and cooperation and have strength in numbers for community survival.
Wikipedia has this to say about the history of dance,
Dance has been an important part of ceremony, rituals, celebrations, and entertainment since before the birth of the earliest human civilization. Archaeology delivers traces of dances from prehistoric times such as the 30,000 year old Bhimbetka rock shelters paintings in India, and Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from c3300 BC. Many contemporary dance forms can be traced back to historical, traditional, ceremonial, and ethnic dances of the ancient period.
For more information on history of dance from Wikipedia, read here. So why do you think dancing is appealing to virtually everyone regardless of age or nationality? Well, for one thing, it’s a lot of fun, and fortunately, for all us slackers who refuse to do any other form of physical activity, it incredibly, very healthy!
Most of us are not active enough on a regular basis and fail to do half the exercise that we really should be doing in order
to experience optimal health and well being. Remember the American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise. Are you getting that? The human body is simply not designed to be sedentary for long periods of time unless we’re sleeping, and yet we spend a huge proportion of our time either sitting at a desk at work or collapsed onto the couch or easy chair watching the tube at home.
According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), the prevalence of obesity was 39.8% and affected about 93.3 million of US adults in 2015~2016. It’s no wonder that obesity is ramport and so many of us have complaints of stiffness or back pain. Whether you are taking a dance class or just going to a dance club on a regular basis, you will develop more flexible moves.
We know, you are saying to yourself, “I just want to dance!” Before we get into all the amazing health and well being benefits of dancing, let’s take a look at a short video of the history and evolution of dancing to illustrate how most forms of dancing, for the exception of slow dancing, uses virtually every part of your body.
Flexibility in dancing will involve all your joints and muscle groups. As you learn more dance types, you will use different muscle groups and types of stretches, making a major improvement in your overall ability to be flexible in your everyday life. Dancing will require you to stretch and bend in ways you do not normally do, so you will be amazed at the change in your range of motion.
For example, a “static-stretch” involves elongating the muscle to its tolerance point. Once in the stretch position, remain in that position for 30 seconds, then relax, and then repeated three to four times. Using this stretch routine consistently, the flexibility gains achieved can be maintained.
Increasing your flexibility with dancing, will keep your arms and legs limber and allow you to move more freely without pain. A study in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine in 2009, reviewed by the National Institutes Of Health (NIH), dancing may help people with Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by rigid muscles, slowed movement, and impaired balance.
There are even classes offered for people with Parkinson’s disease that integrate movements from traditional and modern dance; they are taught by trained dancers and accompanied by live music. Dancing also makes the body’s movements more stable, as your flexibility becomes better. Since dancing requires specific moves
and quickness, it helps a person develop more agility. They can move more quickly when needed. This agility includes both physical and mental agility. An example of that is some of the greatest athletes use dance classes to make them great sports players because they can move quickly with ease and balance.
The Victoria Government Better Health Channel had this to say about dancing health and flexibility.
There are many forms of dance, from ballroom to barn dancing and disco to Morris dancing. Dance has always been a part of human culture, rituals and celebrations. Today, most dancing is about recreation and self-expression, although it can also be done as a competitive activity. Dancing is an enjoyable way to be more physically active and stay fit.
Modern Theatrical Musical Stage Dancing is a social activity, it can improve your overall sense of well-being. You are not isolated with this form of exercise. You may be in a dance class or at a dance club or social dance with your spouse or good friends, even co-workers, which only makes for more socially-stronger engagements and relationships. In addition, wherever it is,
there are likely to be other people involved that you will get to know increasing your social circle. Having a social connection with other people, is a very healthy thing to be involved in because it builds your self-esteem. Having a social connection with other people, is a very healthy thing to be part of. Dancing with a partner or a group.
According to another NIH study which measured the perceptions of dancers in terms of the physical, cognitive, affective, and social benefits of modern, partnered dance styles, found that the participants reported perceived benefits in physical fitness, cognition, affect, and social functioning. In addition, participants also said their mood and self-confidence improved, and that perceived benefits may increase as individuals dance more frequently and over longer periods of time.
Modern Theatrical Musical Stage Dancing or partnered-dancing, helps reduce stress, because you are interacting with other people. It helps improve your confidence and reduces tension, anxiety and depression, because you’re sharing attention with co-actors and working toward similar goals.
Yet another NIH study found that partners or dance groups experience a sense of positivity after successful co-engagement, of shared rhythms, and the externalization of predictable rhythms that allow synchronization to occur between two or more people, and the true importance of dance and social bonding.
Still not convinced? Here is what Wikipedia has to say about dance and health……..
In addition, studies have demonstrated a considerable correlation between dancing and psychological well-being. A large amount of governmental, health, and educational information is available extolling the benefits of dance for health. Benefits of Cultural dance Physical activity has many physical and mental health outcomes.
Improves Memory, Mood, and Cognitive Ability
Another benefit of frequent dancing is that is helps improve your memory and
cognitive ability. An NIH study looked at “Contemporary Dance”(CD)and its effectiveness on attentional control and cognition in older adults, compared to tai chi and fall prevention, 2 other motor training programs. The results showed CD improvisation works as a training for change, inducing plasticity in flexible attention. This goes along with brain improvement, but because dance requires a person to remember specific moves and timing of the moves, overall memory is also improved.
Dancing improves brain function on a variety of levels. Another NIH study revealed dance training is superior to repetitive physical exercise in inducing brain plasticity in the elderly. The study involved elderly participants who constantly had to learn novel and increasingly difficult choreographies. The NIH said:
Present results recommend our challenging dance program as an effective measure to counteract detrimental effects of aging on the brain.
Actually, the neurological effects of dance haven’t been understood until relatively recently, when researchers began to investigate the complex mental coordination that dance requires. According to a neuroscientist from Columbia University, was interviewed in a 2008 Scientific American magazine article, and said,
Dancing not only activate the sensory and motor circuits in the brain, but also stimulates the brain’s reward centers, providing what the scientist called “pleasure-double-play.”
Two recent studies show how different types of practice allow dancers to achieve peak performance by blending cerebral and cognitive thought processes with muscle memory. Through regular aerobic training that incorporates some type of dance at least once a week anyone can maximize his or her brain function. But that’s not the only brain benefit.
Having fun dancing releases the feel-good chemicals called endorphins in the brain bringing you a sense of euphoria and pleasure, and restricts the release of unhealthy cortisol. An article published by the Mayo Clinic reported that physical movement, which can be dancing, reduces anxiety by causing the brain to release mood-lifting endorphins like serotonin and norepinephrine. They also noted that laughter, which frequently happens when dancing, reduces cortisol and lowers blood pressure.
A meta-analysis study published in Arts in Psychotherapy and reviewed by ScienceDirect, concluded that dancing should be encouraged as part of treatment therapy for people with depression and anxiety. The NIH conducted a study to determine if Argentine tango dance compared to mindfulness meditation, in reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Quoting the NIH study,
Mindfulness-meditation and tango dance could be effective complementary adjuncts for the treatment of depression and/or inclusion in stress management programmes.
There’s no question, anecdotally at least, that music has a very stimulating effect on your physical activity,
says Daniel Tarsy, MD, an HMS professor of neurology and director of the Parkinson’s Disease and
And I think that applies to dance, as well,
quoted from the Harvard Medical School Neurobiology Department article Dancing and the Brain.
Increase Your Strength and Endurance
Endurance is the amount of time you can stay active without a break. For
runners, it can allow for marathons instead of just short races. For hikers, it means being able to hike up a steep trail without being short of breath. Dancing helps increase your body’s endurance, while you are having fun.
For runners, it can allow for marathons instead of just short races. Dancing also helps build core strength, making balance and movements easier and smoother. Two studies targeted older adults with pre-existing medical conditions. The average age of participants ranged from 52–87 years old.
Researchers used a variety of measures to assess effectiveness; (1) 3 of 5 (60%) that used measures to assess flexibility showed significant positive results; (2) 23 of 28 (82%) that used measures of muscular strength and endurance showed significant positive changes; (3) 8 of 9 (89%).
If you are dancing with a partner or dancing with a group, you will notice over time, that you are able to dance for longer periods of time. This is because your endurance is increasing. Each time you dance, just push yourself to stay active for a little longer. If you are dancing with a partner or dancing with a group, you will notice over time, that you are able to dance for longer periods of time. Before you know it, you will be on the dance floor until the last song is played and they’re turning out the lights. Many hospitals, rehab facilities, and community centers offer dance therapy, such as Healthy-Steps, which incorporates the Lebed Method of dancing, a movement program originally developed for cancer patients.
Benefits Heart and Cardiovascular System
Exercise in general is good for your heart, so, dance your way to better heart health. A recent report suggests that dancing regularly, can lower the risk
of heart disease. A 10-year study in the UK showed that people who participated in medium intensity physical activity, had a lower risk of heart problems.
The study included 48,000 people in the United Kingdom who answered questions about their dancing and walking habits over the past month.
All were 40 years and older with no history of heart disease and agreed to be linked to the National Death Registry. The study showed dancers had a slightly lower risk of cardiac disease than those who walked for exercise. After an average follow-up of nearly 10 years, researchers found that moderate-intensity dancing was linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular death. This benefit was slightly better than that seen with walking, and possibly stronger in women than men.
Dancing may offer brief bouts of higher-intensity exercise, as well as stress-relieving social connections, say the authors, whose findings appeared in the June 2016 American Journal of Preventive Medicine article “Dancing Participation and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality.” The NIH has a good reference “Physical Activity and Your Heart”, which covers all the various forms of effective exercise good for the heart and cardiovascular system, including dancing.
Supports Immune System
Scientists claim that listening to uplifting dance music, and your body starts moving and you’ve just gotta dance,
increases the level of antibodies (antioxidants)in the human body. They also found that stress hormones decreased after listening to the same type of music. The level of stress-producing cortisol, decreased significantly in people who listened to music compared to a control group who did not listen to music.
Dance may promote wellness by strengthening the immune system through muscular action and physiological processes
, reported in the NCBI study, The Power of Dance: Health and Healing.”
Slows the Aging Process
Forget about all the supplements, holistic treatments, and super food smoothies. Only kidding! You need some of them too, which we’ll cover shortly. Seniors who want to turn back the clock when it comes to aging and keep both their bodies and their brains healthy need only to take a trip to their local ballroom dance hall.
That’s because a new study finds that while regular exercise helps keep us strong physically and mentally, dancing may be the most valuable form of physical activity, so much so that it actually has certain anti-aging effects which are more substantial than the benefits of general fitness.
Researchers at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Otto von Guericke University Magdebugeden, and healthy seniors, mostly in their late
60s, were split into two groups. One group was assigned to learn routines from a dance instructor, while the other partook in endurance and flexibility training courses. Both groups participated in their respective classes weekly over 18 months.
During the exercise program, participants performed various regimens like cycling or Nordic walking, for example, while those who took dance courses learned new genres or routines every other week. Both groups showed marked increases in the hippocampus portion of the brain, the same area where conditions like Alzheimer’s and depression typically originate.
In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that led to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance,
says Dr. Rehfield, of the German Center For Neurodegenerative Diseases, and lead researcher. The dancing group not only improved brain function, but also balance and agility, as reported in the article “Dancing Can Reverse the Signs Of Aging In the Brain“.
Then there’s the “Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly”, study in the New England Journal Of Medicine, dancing may boost your memory and prevent you from developing dementia as you get older. Science reveals that aerobic exercise can reverse volume loss in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory.
The hippocampus naturally shrinks during late adulthood, which often leads to impaired memory and sometimes dementia. Another study published in the Journal Of Applied Gerontology, showed that just simple dance moods were effective in slowing down deterioration of bodily functioning in the elderly.
Improves Blood Circulation
When done regularly, moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity such as dancing, strengthens your heart muscle and lower the risk of CHD, and may even lower blood pressure. This improves your heart’s
ability to pump blood to your lungs and throughout your body. As a result, more blood flows to your muscles, and oxygen levels in your blood rise. Capillaries, your body’s tiny blood vessels, also widen. This allows them to deliver more oxygen to your body and carry away waste products. CHD is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque, due to an excess of c-reaction protein (CRP) inflammation, builds up inside your coronary arteries restricting circulation and placing a strain on your heart. These arteries supply your heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood.
Plaque forms and narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow to your heart muscle. Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture, or break open. This causes a blood clot to form on the surface of the plaque. If the clot becomes large enough, it can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. Blocked blood flow to the heart muscle causes a heart attack. Dancing reduces the buildup of CRPs decreasing the risk of plaque forming in the arteries, and the chances of a heart attack.
How many of you recognize this song? It was a great song during the disco days about a dancer. Check it out!
Before you start line dancing, there are several other beneficial activities you should be doing on a daily basis which will be very helpful in supporting your dancing activity, and those are:
Spend Time With Family, Especially With Children
Well, now that you have read “I Just Want To Dance”, when are you going to dance, dance, dance? We hope soon! Please list your questions and comments below.
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