Image Credit: flickr
Hello Everyone. Today’s article is a guest post from The Factory Gym.
Thanks to the title, those 80s music stalwarts amongst you will instantly recall the fabulous disco beat (and not-so-fabulous-but-strangely-effective lyrics) of Liquid Gold’s greatest hit. However, although a successful product of its time in terms of getting people up and dancing, thirty-odd years later it’s been proven that a bit of carefree dancing doesn’t necessarily add to that dizzy, ditsy factor … in fact, a bit of dancing could be making you smarter!
Memory Boosting Moves
The reasoning behind the theories is that our brains are constantly busy, requiring and establishing new neural pathways as and when required. If our brains aren’t challenged enough and required to fire on all cylinders as often as possible then, like batteries, they just run flat. In response to such theories, recent studies by the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance have shown that taking up a new form of dancing, attending classes and learning the moves are all excellent ways to keep those neural pathways renewing and alert; it can also be good fun too!
“I have come to know the nicest group of people in my classes. We laugh, we dance and we let off steam from the day.”
– Charlotte Kabagwera, The Factory Gym in London
Additionally, during the activity of dancing itself, the brain’s busy sending messages out to all parts of the body involved, promoting co-ordination, kinaesthetic, rational, musical and emotional activity across the brain. Even once the dance moves have been learned, the brain is still actively employed in keeping that dance going, remembering the moves and even creating its own variations as personal preference, rhythm and creativity are also stimulated. Any and all of this is beneficial at any age … dancing is certainly a way of using, rather than losing faculties.
Psychological Boosts for Children
Aside from tap and ballet classes which have been the standard offerings for many communities’ children over the years, the 21st century sees a growing trend in dance classes for children as the benefits of getting children on their feet are both explored and acknowledged. One UK study, partly responding to the findings of the Laban research, has found that 10 week dance programmes for children bring the benefits of:
- Increased physical fitness (particularly beneficial against the current trend of childhood obesity).
- Increased aerobic capacity.
- Positive effects on the development of creative and expressive skills.
- Positive effects on well-being and confidence.
Although the study wasn’t able to offer any quantitative evidence for the dance programme making children smarter, the fact that well-being, confidence, problem-solving and memory skills were improved as a result of the programme (evidenced in the children’s’ responses) the logical effects of these benefits passing into their everyday attitude and aptitudes for learning, retaining and following instructions was apparent.
No, not necessarily endearing lairy youths of either gender, the fact is that frequent dancing can improve intelligence, in the form of increased cognitive acuity, within any generation or age group. A major USA study showed that even up against cognitive activities such as reading and completing crossword puzzles, and physical activities including swimming and bicycling, dancing frequently offered the greatest opportunity to reduce the risk of developing mental diseases, such as dementia – by a massive 76% across varying age groups.
Continuing Brain Power for the Older Generations
Similarly, the Trinity Laban research reviewed several studies concerned with the psychological as well as the physical impact of dance on those in their “third age” – the time associated not necessarily with a pottering-about retirement of our grandparents but the contemporary understanding of child-free opportunities for travel, education and continued life experiences. Again, encouraging this generation to “use it” through dance, rather than lose it altogether offers continued cognitive and physical health benefits.
Moves to Maximise the Benefits
Although dancing is itself a mobile activity, there is the risk that some basic, choreographed dances, learned by rote, can be so repetitive as to offer few benefits … it’s possible to actually be quite passive whilst dancing (as anyone who’s ever been forced by their excited children into yet another round of the Macarena will understand). The way to enjoy the maximum benefits of dancing to brain acuity are to:
- Start learning a new dance.
- Free-dance when you have the chance. This involves attuning to the music and forcing your brain to make split-second choices about the moves you’re going to make. Nothing gets those neurons firing like decision, so making free-dancing part of your routine is a good thing.
- Along with free-dancing, add to the mix some old dance tracks … yes, like those 80s disco moves and challenge yourself to remember the moves or make them up as you go along, as this will be boosting those memory cells too!
So next time you spot the pound shop sticker platitude inviting you to “dance like no-one’s watching” – crank up your old favourite tunes and make your moves, or sign up to that Salsa class you’ve always wanted to take … your brain will thank you for it.