Dancing could be the most unique form of exercise. An energetic social activity, that occupies the space somewhere between a night on the town and team sports. It has held various important social functions in societies around the world, so there must be as many different dances as there are cultures. From single person high energy aerobic dance workouts like Zumba to more leisurely partner dances like samba or cha-cha, you can have fun, socialize and keep fit at the same time.
Some forms of dance could be a good way to add variety to your routine if you exercise regularly. You can also choose high or low energy styles to complement your other workouts. If like many you’re struggling to find the motivation to exercise, dancing can also be a great way to get back into a personal fitness routine.
Attending dance classes can be a great way to socialize, meet up with friends or as a shared hobby between partners. Online dance classes are becoming more popular during social distancing, but they’re also great for those who simply prefer a night in or for family members to have energetic fun together at home.
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Physical Health Benefits
Dancing exercises the whole body. Moderate to high intensity, dancing can help to improve flexibility and increase stamina, as well as strengthen bones and muscles.
As it is mostly low impact cardiovascular exercise, it’s easier on the joints than running or other high impact training, thus, making it suitable for all ages and fitness levels. As with any exercise that raises the heart rate, dancing gets the blood flowing which leads to the release of endorphins and as a bonus increases energy levels. Studies also suggest that dancing can improve balance and coordination, which is particularly beneficial to us as we grow older.
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Mental Health Benefits
Aside from the fact that dancing just makes you feel good, it can also have long-term mental health benefits too. As we age, the hippocampus which controls memory shrinks, leading to memory loss and dementia. However, dancing may boost our memory and prevent us from developing dementia as we get older.
A 2017 study, “The Dancing Brain: Structural and Functional Signatures of Expert Dance Training” published on Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that long term, varied skills that combine the use of motor function and coordination, like dancing, actually might alter the brain in a beneficial way. Dancers, along with other motor trained groups such as musicians, had increased brain sizes in the areas that control motor function. The 20 participants being studied also demonstrated decreased levels of fractional anisotropy, whose high levels can be an early sign of degenerative brain diseases. This could prove to be an effective natural alternative to more invasive neurostimulation techniques and possibly even help to battle early onset dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
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Emotional Health Benefits
Music can be a powerful emotional trigger for us. We can all relate to that feeling of being transported back to a time and place upon hearing a certain song from our past. It can conjure up very vivid memories that were buried deep in the back of our minds and allow the emotions, sights and smells of a specific time to flood back.
Dance is intrinsically linked to music and rhythm. When we dance with our whole bodies and hearts, there is an emotional element to it that, though it can be studied, may never really be understood. Research suggests to us that it’s good for the body and good for the mind, but it’s also good for the soul and almost unique to us human creatures. So put on your headphones and give yourself some therapy.
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