We all find ourselves on a dance floor at some point: weddings, holiday parties, friends’ living rooms. Maybe you’ve heard that dancing is good for you, but do you know how it can positively impact your health and your life? We’re breaking down the science for you and giving you 5 easy ways to capitalize on the benefits of dancing.
1. 30 Going on 13!?
According to this 2017 study from Colorado State University, dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain by increasing the size of the hippocampus, a region of the brain that tends to shrink as we age. The hippocampus is associated with memory and, when damaged, with Alzheimer's and dementia. Dr. Rehfeld notes, "Dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind.” Focus and memory are two skills that are critical to picking up new choreography and moving your body in a new way.
TRY THIS: Pick a simple dance move and repeat it several times. This can be as basic as walking across the room. Now, reverse it. I’m not just asking you to walk the other way. Move as if someone hit the rewind button. This can be a lot harder than it may initially seem and gets your body moving in a new way.
2. Hip-hop and Ya Don’t Stop
Dancing can also boost your mood. A 2007 study showed that students who started taking a hip-hop class reported a boost in their “well-being”. And this was not just due to being physically active. Scores were significantly higher than other fitness activities like ice-skating and body conditioning. Furthermore, the students had reduced feelings of anxiety and depression after hitting the dance floor.
TRY THIS: Turn on the song that can always get you moving (Michael Jackson? Beyoncé? Missy Elliott?) Now, using only your body, tell the story of your day. What happened? How did you feel? What surprised you? Dancing is a powerful tool to convey a story, and you may find yourself loosening up and getting silly as you recreate the elevator ride up to your office.
3. It Takes Two to Tango
Dancing with others builds a strong connection and social bond. When we synchronize our movement with another person, which can be as simple as walking in time, our neural networks reduce the distinction between our “self” and our partner. This means we can feel closer with someone without even saying a word.
TRY THIS: Next time you are walking down the street with someone, match your strides so that you are both stepping with the same leg at the same time. And just like that, you are “self-other merging”!
4. Feel the Music in Your Veins
Vigorously moving your body to music can actually increase your pain threshold and flood your body with endorphins. MRI and PET scans have shown that music activates the “pleasure and reward” areas of the brain. Even the beat of the music can affect us in different ways. A strong, upbeat, techno song will release more endorphins that a soothing piano track.
TRY THIS: Just pop in your headphones and let the music do the trick.
5. Hello! Dancer’s Bod?
It would be hard not to mention the physical benefits of dance. While it can improve memory, boost mood, aid social bonding, and produce endorphins, dancing will also increase your flexibility, strength, coordination, and cardio fitness. For people that have a hard time slogging it out on the treadmill, dance is a great balance between working out and having fun.
TRY THIS: Find a local dance studio or try a BLOCK21 Fitness class. If you’re slightly nervous to try it alone, bring a friend along. You never know until you try!