There are many different reasons why one may start dancing regularly or enroll in a dance class. You may be looking for a new form of exercise or maybe you are trying to impress or please your partner. Perhaps you’ve always loved dancing, but just never had the time before. One reason you will rarely hear someone say is that they are dancing because they want to become smarter. Though this may sound ridiculous, scientific research has proven that dancing actually does improve the functioning of your brain and your memory.
Does Dancing Really Make You Smarter?
Yes, it actually does. A study was done that analyzed the daily behavior of the elderly and followed them for 20 years, recording which ones developed Alzheimer’s and dementia. The study took note of several different types of physical activities, such as dancing and playing golf, as well as mental activities such as reading and doing crosswords.
When they looked at the results 20 years later, dancing was the only physical activity that significantly reduced a person’s chances of getting Alzheimer’s or dementia. In addition, dancing reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s by a larger percentage than any of the mental activities. It was the most powerful prevention for Alzheimer’s in the study. Compared to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s for non-dancers, the risk for regular dancers was 79% lower.
How Does Dancing Affect Your Brain?
This is still a changing area of research, but scientists believe dancing is so powerful because it involves both your cerebral cortex and the hippocampus. Dancing is a unique activity because when you dance your brain must process physical, emotional, musical, and mental stimuli. This causes your brain to work extremely hard and creates new neural pathways as well as rewires old pathways. This leads to greater long-term cognitive health and improved memory.
The study was careful to say that they don’t know what types of dancing are most protective for your brain because that wasn’t studied specifically. However, scientists predict that the best types of dances incorporate both learned and improvised steps. This second-by-second thinking and computing is much more taxing on your brain, and thus should have a much larger effect on your cognitive health.
Now, this research doesn’t mean that learning to dance will suddenly increase your IQ, but the results from the study were still pretty amazing. Whether you are trying to work out your body or your mind, dancing is one of the most effective and most fun activities you’ll find.