Dr. Warren Willey

Warren Willey

Unlike medical journals, I will admit, up front and out loud when there are biases in my writing. This short article is about dancing and its brain benefits. Body benefits are obvious, so let’s talk brain benefits.

I have a family of dancers so of course it is obvious to me that anything (and everything) to do with dancing is of great benefit to you physically, mentally, and emotionally. There is my admission of bias. Several studies have reported the benefits of coordinated physical activity (movement that takes thought) such as dancing to prevent brain deterioration.

It seems that dancing is unique in that mental, emotional, social, and physical skills all come into play. This combination of influences has some powerful effects on brain preservation.

In 2017 a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience showed dancing may be a better form of exercise than traditional fitness training, such as riding a bike or lifting weights, when it comes to slowing the signs of aging.

The study evaluated brain MRIs of dancers and found improved functional connectivity of the visual brain systems and of the general motor learning network.

These differences were related to balance and training-induced structural changes when compared to non-dancers. In other words, dancing had a greater effect on brain health than other forms of exercise.

A study done in 2003 in the New England Journal of Medicine also suggested that dance can help improve brain health. In this study, dance significantly reduced dementia risk. Bottom line? Find a dance class in town and join it!

Square dance, Ballroom dance, do an adult ballet class, put on your favorite music and dance around your house — does not matter.

Well — the last suggestion might matter if you forget to close the blinds… Optimize your body and protect your brain with coordinated and thoughtful movement — dance!

Dr. Warren Willey is a Pocatello physician. Visit his website at http://drwilley.com.