Dancing is great Brain Food
Exercise in general has long been held in high regard for its endless mental health benefits, but new studies suggest that dancing in particular may improve brain function on a variety of levels and that regular aerobic training which incorporates dances can maximise your brain function.
Maximise brain function
Different types of dance, it seems, blend cerebral and cognitive thought processes with muscle memory and something called proprioception, which is where your body uses sensory information to contribute to the sense of position of self and movement… and working all these areas combined is how you can maximise your brain function.
Let’s look at what this means for two different aspects of dance:
Improve muscle memory & reduce mental strain
Dizziness isn’t a thing in the lives of professional dancers, with their grace, poise, unworldly ability to balance on their toes and spin around and around and around… oh, we’re getting dizzy just thinking about it! A study from the Imperial College London showed that ballet dancer’s brain structures are slightly different to the average adult’s, allowing them to spin endlessly without getting dizzy.
It seems that years of dancing regularly can enable them to suppress the signals from the balance organs within the ear that usually alert your brain to dizziness. Scientists are now keen to see if dancing regularly may be able to assist chronic dizziness, which as many as 1 in 4 people will experience at some point in their lifetime.
In a second study it was found that the act of marking out a dance routine slowly, which is a regular feature throughout the process of learning to dance and learning new routines, can improve muscle memory and reduce the mental strain needed to perfect the movements involved in the routine.
Professional dancers glide across the stage but it’s well-known throughout the dance community that learning those steps are physically and mentally demanding. The act of marking, breaks these steps down and allows dancers to move slowly through the steps over and over, introducing more and more fluidity each time and allowing them to better memorise the steps.
The focus on the steps over perfecting the movements allows them to concentrate on the mental task of memorising the routine and reduces the demand on their bodies so that there wasn’t so much demand on the cognitive load while learning the choreography.
While these brain function improvements were both found in professional dancers with years of training, scientists believe that it’s possible for the general public to benefit from improved brain function by engaging in dance for fitness purposes. Just 1 or 2 dance sessions a week will help you see the benefits of improved brain function as well as better mental health and co-ordination.