To keep this brief, we’ve shortlisted some of the relatively recent scientific studies on the benefits of dance. Can dance be your fountain of youth?
Don’t miss out on number three!
1. The Benis Only Increase with Time!
With time and experience, the benefits that you experience are augmented! When 225 dancers were surveyed, the results were positive all around among the active dancers. The data was divided into novices and those who have danced for longer periods of time and, separately, those who dance multiple times a week. Conclusion?
The more experienced dancers and those who danced more times per week reported higher benefits from social dancing.
Specifically, many dancers report:
- feeling more fit
- more social interactions
- less depression
What does this mean for you as a beginner or someone who is waning in their attendance at dance events?
Hang in there and go out to dance more often. Things only get better from here!
2. Advantages of Dancing vs. General Exercise
Advantage #1 is Social
Social dancing is a total social catalyst. You can go walking/jogging/running for exercise at any time, and most people go solo, or occasionally they get lucky and can actually coordinate schedules with another person.
Dancers, on the other hand, are surrounded by people at all times and don’t have to try to coordinate with anyone. You just go and meet up with a bunch of people that are ready to be social with you!
- This leads to social closeness and social bonding with strangers. It doesn’t necessarily make anyone more altruistic, however dancers report less isolation/loneliness.
- A dance class is not only great for exercise, group classes usually being the cheapest and less complicated option for people. A social night provides a relaxed, fun environment as well as a great excuse to have fun dressing up.
Advantage #2 is Mental
There is much work being done with Parkinson’s, dementia, pain threshold and Alzheimer’s mixing music and dance hoping to optimize results. Occasionally, there is so much data from surveys and scientific studies conducted all around the world that it’s redundant to conduct yet another scientific study, and a group of scientists decide to, instead, publish a review summarizing all of that information. This is sometimes called a “scoping review.” The scientists find the weaknesses of each study, and look for studies that fill that gap and answer those questions that other studies are lacking in. The group of scientists takes on the task of trying to see if the preponderance of evidence can point to a conclusive “yes” or “no” on any issue.
An overall review published in 2017 on the effects of dance on dementia reveals that, yes, there is a “positive efficacy of dancing therapy on cognitive, physical, emotional and social performance of people with dementia.”
Caveats: when comparing to walking, ballroom dance only showed more improvement in spatial memory in a group of elderly people. This means that walking can also garner many of the same memory/brain benefits as ballroom dancing, but dance has the singular advantage of increasing spatial memory.
Another experiment found that dance also positively influenced episodic memory in older Latinos (what, where, when memories of personal experiences and associated emotions).
Advantage #3 is Physical
This next study was very deliberate in dissecting if the challenge of learning new movements, routines and using different parts of the body would have any effect on the brain or, conversely, in their control group, if any repetitive exercise would do the trick.
While the headlines touted regeneration and growth in the brain, including the hippocampus, which is where declines into dementia, Alzheimer’s and other diseases are evidenced, actually, regular exercise also helped in these areas. The authors specified, however the benefits of dance over regular exercise:
“…two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that led to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.”
3. Connect with Culture & Community
For Greeks interviewed for a social science article in Melbourne, Australia, folk dancing is one element that helps them reinforce their cultural identity and keeps them feeling a part of a community.
“Preserving this heritage was important to all participants and served as a vehicle for social connection that enhanced their physical and emotional wellbeing.”
Greece’s financial crisis of 2009 had profound effects, forcing some to migrate. In this case in Melbourne, about a third of the participants were born in Greece. Interestingly, many of the younger members of the troupe (in their early 20s) mentioned the joy they see in their older audience members.
“Their dancing reflected a desire of the participants in this study to connect with their older relatives, to respect their beliefs and perceptions, and to please them by engaging in an activity that was Greek in nature.”
This study on Greek dancers is particularly relevant to diaspora communities.
Think of the diasporas of - Venezuela - Puerto Rico - Haiti - Argentina - Cuba
Dance as an emotional tie to the homeland becomes poignantly important.
Almost all of the Greeks in the study mentioned their emotions and specifically emotional health and the happiness and wellbeing of their audience members. Even among individualistic types, “belonging,” and “community,” are central themes to wellbeing, happiness and a feeling of safety.
Whether it’s Konpa, Kizomba, Salsa, Casino, Tango, do not hesitate to start dancing. Today. For yourself. For others, as well! Help grow the dance community.
Dance = Instant Community
If you’ve started, don’t get lazy. We encourage you to keep it up. It will only get better from here on out!