The Art of Movement: Four Positive Effects of Dance on the Mind
If you think dance is confined to a world of tutus, pointe shoes, and rigid discipline, think again. Instead, imagine a world of weightless exploration, community, and self-awareness. When used in this way, dance addresses the individual holistically, leaving behind a variety of incredible mental benefits.
It is widely known that dance provides great exercise, and recent research shows that its mental benefits are also too good to pass up. If you’ve ever thought about dancing or perhaps used to dance and need to move again, here are some reasons to get out of your chair and move—regardless of your skill level.
1. Dance increases mental alertness. One 21-year study conducted by Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York found that those who frequently danced reduced their risk of dementia by 76%. This was the highest level of protection of all other activities involved in the study. In addition to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the study also found that dance increases cognitive acuity at all ages.
The challenge of remembering a dance while controlling your body creates new neuronal synapses. “If you were able to take an MRI of the brain while a person is dancing, you would see that many areas are activated at the same time,” Jane Mapson, Nia dance instructor at The Sports Club at Garden of the Gods Club, said. “In addition to connecting with sound, dancers utilize flexibility, agility, mobility, strength, and emotion all at once,” she continued. “Nia is great because each class has a focus that ties all of this activity together to give dance a deeper meaning.”
2. Dance can provide a positive release that clears the mind. Regardless of how you’re feeling prior to attending a dance class, it is often the case that you leave with a fresh perspective and a feeling of release. Movement has the ability to “work out” emotions via movement, un-bottling them, so to speak. “I will often feel anxious before attending a Nia or Zumba class, but I’ll still make myself go and do it. I just feel so much better physically and mentally afterward. I have a lighter step and a clearer mind,” a GGC Member said.
“Jane does a great job. I really think that it [dance] clears the mind,” Jan, a Member at GGC, said. “It feeds my soul and takes me out of myself so that I can reside in the moment.”
3. Dance can calm and elevate your mood. On that note, dance can also greatly improve your mood. In one Psychology Today article, NYU dance professor and dance therapist Miriam Berger claims that “you can change your internal state through external movement.” The article goes on to describe how moving to music activates the brain’s pleasure circuits. In fact, one Italian study that followed cardiac-rehab patients enrolled in waltzing classes found that they were happier than those who participated in biking or treadmill training. So if you’re feeling a bit down, or just stuck in a rut, try a dance class! It’s a proven way to boost your mood.
4. Dance provides an opportunity to connect with others and to build empathy. Dance utilizes the brain’s structure in a way that encourages bonding with others. In a Psychology Today article, Robyn Flaum Cruz, President of the American Dance Therapy Association, described how dancing bonds people. “MRI scans show that watching someone dance activates the same neurons that would fire if you yourself were doing the moves,” she said. “So when one dancer’s movement expresses joy or sadness, others often get to experience it as well, spreading feelings and fostering empathy.” Dancing is not only individual, but it also has the ability to unite and bond those who dance together.
To reap these incredible mental benefits, all you need to do is dance! If you are interested in trying recreational dance, sports memberships at Garden of the Gods Club include access to a variety of Nia and Zumba dance classes. You may be surprised at how dance can positively impact you not only physically but mentally as well. To learn more about sports memberships at Garden of the Gods Club, we invite you to contact Director of Membership Tracey Kalata at 719.520.4980 or email@example.com.