Before you do anything else, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Do you want to feel on top of your game?
  • Does Alzheimer’s or dementia run in your family?
  • Is there value in aging gracefully?


Did you answer “yes”?

Here’s what you need to know when you think about your answers: One driver for students to come to Arthur Murray is for health reasons. Beyond working out and staying fit, students have used dance to help them avoid or cope with serious health diagnoses.

We checked in with Jessica De Vries of Arthur Murray Royal Oak for the details. “We have another current student who is also here, as her mother has Alzheimer’s and comes to dance to help prevent its onset. Because it is musical, social, physical… I know can be very beneficial.

Along with Alzheimer’s, I know students who were diabetic and used to have to be on insulin every day no longer had to take it due to dancing and improving their health. We had one student whose doctor recommended she take dance lessons to help Parkinson’s.”

“Dance is physical, mental, social, musical… it benefits people psychologically, emotionally, physically and socially. There are patterns and steps people need to learn with their brain, but they also translate these into their body which takes another type of brain/body connection. All this happens while they communicate with their partner and try to dance it to music.”

 

Now, we know how incredible this sounds.

If you’re still mystified by the idea of coping with a very serious diagnosis by way of ballroom dance, you’re not alone.

So let’s give you a little context to the claim. Here are the reasons why dance may be called an excellent tool for your health:

Results from a New England Journal of Medicine study are showing some very important cues about your future. My future. Our future. All of us. Sure, that seems like a grand statement, but according to a Health Guidance article “The Best Means of Avoiding Alzheimer’s Is Dance?,” it’s absolutely true. A neurologist named Dr. Joe Verghese at Albert Einstein College of Medicine followed elderly subjects over twenty-one years in order to determine “which activities most improved their sharpness of mind, and thus staved off the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.”

 

We’ve all heard the phrase “use it or lose it.”

These scientists put that “use it or lose it” concept to the test when it comes to brain function. They studied a number of activities that subjects engaged in to see which ones best improved their cognitive functions, including reading, crossword puzzles, cards, writing, and playing a musical instrument. They also tested the impact of physical activities such as swimming, bicycling, playing tennis or golf, walking for exercise, doing housework, and dancing.

According to the article, “an even bigger surprise was that regularly engaging in social dancing lowered the seniors’ risk of dementia by a staggering 76%.”

The key “…is to continually forge new neural pathways. And the way to do this is to constantly challenge the mind and force it to make split-second, rapid-fire decisions. Each of these decisions has the effect of creating greater cognitive reserve and a more complex network of neuronal synapses. In short, the more pathways your brain has to the information stored in it, the more accessible that information becomes, and the less likely you are to forget it.”

 

Seem complicated? It’s all about making rapid-fire decisions.

“Dance, especially ballroom dance and other forms that involve cooperation between two partners – one leading and the other following, or both following not just preset steps but having the ability to improvise – causes the very rapid-fire decision-making that forges new neural pathways. The researchers emphasize that not all forms of dancing will accomplish this; for example, types of dance that rely on retracing the same memorized steps will form no new connections in the brain. Improvements to cognitive function occur when we learn something new, something we haven’t done before.”

 

Okay, so which dances will be most helpful?

“The dancers in the recent study who showed the most resistance to dementia practiced what is referred to as freestyle social dancing – foxtrot, waltz, swing, tango, and Latin dance.”