Heather Dobbert, MSW, LCSW, CDP, CADDCT, Director of Dementia Care Services, Hebrew HealthCare
Exercise is important for your body. Research in the past two decades proves that exercise can actually slow progressive neurological diseases (like Parkinson’s) and improve immunity from chronic disease in old age. But what about preventative brain health? Of all the exercise options – including walking, swimming, running – dancing is the best for your brain.
Dancing blends cerebral and cognitive thought processes with muscle memory and proprioception (awareness of your body in space). Researchers examined how ballet dancers spin without getting dizzy. They found that years of training teaches their brains to override the reflex of getting dizzy. Furthermore, dancing improves balance:
- Dancing improves coordination by challenging the vestibular system/inner ear;
- Memorizing the steps and choreography combines the thinking and moving parts of the brain; and
- Improving muscle memory maximizes our fluidity of motion.
Add music, socialization and release of endorphins and serotonin, and you quickly see improvements in emotional wellness as well as physical strength and stamina. In short, dancing excites multiple brain regions that affect cognition including: motor cortex, somatosensory, basal ganglia, cerebellum and frontotemporal lobe (where executive functions, like planning ability, are located). Stimulating these areas increases neuronal connections and helps build your gray matter.
Experts suggest that adding dance or other movement/music such as Tai Chi or Zumba programs to your fitness routine, at least once a week, is good for your brain. Call us about our upcoming movement & music programs for the community at 860-920-1810.