Dance to Better Brain Health: Moving Your Body to Music Appears to Offer Many Cognitive Benefits
Dancing is not only fun, it can be good for the brain. Many studies over the years have suggested that boogieing to the beat may improve one’s memory, attention span, and mental focus, to name a few.
Exercise in general can improve areas of the brain that control memory and skills, such as planning and organizing, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Dance has the added dimensions of rhythm, balance, music, and a social setting that enhances the benefits of simple movement — and can be fun!,” the CDC adds.
In one National Institutes of Health -funded study, a group of older sedentary adults participated in a Latin ballroom dance program. Participants saw improvements in memory, attention, and focus, according to the researchers.
What Happens When We Dance?
Ballroom dancing appears to stimulate brain regions that underlie attention, executive functions, working memory, sequential learning, visuomotor coordination, and spatial processing, studies have found . A dancer, for example, may engage in physical and observational learning and memory, social interaction and communication skills, imagination and improvisation, music/acoustic stimulation, and expression of emotion.
On top of physical and cognitive gains, dancing provides a communal experience that can activate mirror neurons, which in turn boosts participants’ overall mood.
Organized dance, such ballet, not only is physically demanding, but it’s cognitively demanding as well, experts note . Learning and rehearsing a dance piece requires significant concentration to memorize complex moves and achieve a desired performance.
One systematic review of research studies into the benefits of dance finds many benefits. Dance appears to integrate areas of the brain to positively affect brain activity, it notes.
Don’t be Shy
Pharmacists can offer sound advice to clients on the benefits of hitting the dance floor.
The CDC also recommends older adults consider signing up for a dance class and inviting their friends to join. Classes often are held at local community colleges, the YMCA, dance studios, or community centers. If a formal class is a bit too much at first, people may try dancing at home by following along with a DVD or one of the many YouTube videos that focus on dance lessons. Get moving!