Dr Amy says
“Dance is a conversation between body and soul”
Dancing in general has been appreciated for its several benefits – including improved muscle strength and tone, coordination, flexibility, agility, spatial awareness, cognition, memory, mood, balance (reducing risk of falls and improving “balance confidence”), stress relief, self – confidence, social and psychological well-being. It positively impacts all aspects of our health- mind, body and soul.
Dancing integrates physical activity with several brain functions simultaneously — kinesthetic, musical, sensory and emotional – this increases neural connectivity and neurogenesis (new nerve growth) via many chemicals including BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). Hence, dance can be of benefit to those suffering from neurological conditions such as dementia, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
Numerous studies have been done on the benefits of dancing. A particularly interesting one that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Verghese et al 2003) showed that out of eleven physical activities, dancing was the only one that lowered dementia risk by a significant 76%. Another study by Hackney and Earhart (2009) compared the effects of tango, waltz, foxtrot and tai chi- although all beneficial, tango was found to show the largest benefit. The waltz has also shown to have comparable effects to that of treadmill training.
Another interesting study illustrating the superiority of dance compared with other physical activities, was done by Muller et al (2017). They observed two groups of healthy seniors over an 18-month period – one on a standard fitness program (involving repetitive movements) and the other in a dance program (constantly changing, new movements). MRI brain scans, BDNF and neuropsychological tests were performed. The results essentially demonstrated that the dancers had higher levels of BDNF compared to the standard group. After six months, the dancers also had a significant increase in the gray matter volume (left pre-central gyrus which controls voluntary motor function) and at 18 months, an increase in the para hippocampal gyrus volume (memory). The authors concluded that participating in a long-term dance program is superior in inducing neuroplasticity and that “dance is highly promising in its potential to counteract age-related gray matter decline”.
Optimal health comprises unity of many elements – physical, mental, social and emotional. Classes as offered by Dance Health Alliance encompass all these elements and have the potential to assist healing and well-being in every way.