We know that to prevent disease, extend life, and enhance emotional health we need to move continuously for at least thirty minutes a day. What we can entertain, is that this movement does not need to be unpleasant, in fact, it can be downright enjoyable—how about we dance! Sustained low intensity dancing reaps the same benefits as walking, including improvements in cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance, balance, and flexibility. Additionally, the learned and repeated movement patterns utilized during dance, have a positive effect on cognition and maintaining brain function throughout the lifespan.
Our brains benefit from learning novel tasks and sashaying through a two-step, tap, or twirl may be just what the doctor ordered. An assessment of dance interventions provided through 13 research studies involving a total of 1605 participants over the age of sixty, demonstrated a positive relationship between dance and improvements in cognitive functioning. You do not need to be over 60 to enjoy the many mind/body benefits of joining together in a dance-related experience. The social connections forged in a group activity support our need for human interaction; laughing, smiling, and experiencing comradery are all meaningful ways to improve our wellbeing—a dance experience is ripe with opportunity.
When dancing, our mind and awareness are especially engaged leaving less time to focus on the fact that we are moving around continuously. Feel-good hormones released during sustained movement are likewise released during dancing, further elevating the happiness-effect of the experience. There are many types of dance that can fit the bill; for example, salsa dancing in previously inactive women resulted in improvements in overall wellbeing and reductions in psychological stress. Research on tap dancing resulted in physical, psychological, social, and emotional benefits as reported by the participants. We can even freestyle away with loved ones in the comfort of our kitchen to celebrate a moment of connection, creating joy. The facts are, movement makes us well, human connection helps us to thrive, add in some kindness exchanged and we have a trifecta of health-enhancing bliss!