Health Check: Can Science Sway You To Dance?


Sometimes carving out time to do what you want to do versus what you have to do can be a tricky task. Do you choose an activity you could squeeze in during your lunch hour or take the class your friends recommend after work? Do you focus on gaining a new skill or hone in on a familiar exercise? If we all had the means and time available to us, none of this contemplation would even be necessary! The reality is that we need to choose our activities wisely as we balance our family and work commitments. This means picking activities that will have a positive, lasting effect on our mind, body and spirit. We know that movement is key to our health, but which form of physical activity actually has proven, long-term physical and mental benefits? Guesses, anyone? Consider findings from two scientific studies that put the spotlight on dancing.


As reported in TIME, a research team followed 1,000 Japanese women over eight years to assess the effect of physical activity in this elderly group. Among the women, 130 met the criteria for being disabled (as measured by the completion of “tasks like walking, bathing and dressing”). The study found that dancing–our favorite pastime, as you may know– took center stage as the single activity to stave off disability. The women in the study who danced frequently lowered their chance of becoming disabled by a whopping 73 percent (as opposed to those who did not dance).


As the article states, “none of the other exercises, including calisthenics, walking and yoga, had such a strong association after adjusting for demographic and health factors.” Step into our studio at Arthur Murray Royal Oak and you might not find this surprising! Many of our students attribute lowered stress levels and improved overall health to their ballroom classes. The researchers in the study state that “dancing requires not only balance, strength, and endurance ability, but also cognitive ability: adaptability and concentration to move according to the music and partner, artistry for graceful and fluid motion, and memory for choreography.”


The second study that the TIME article touches on addresses mental decline, a common and unfortunate reality of aging. In analyzing data from 3,500 individuals between the ages of 50 to 85, researchers found that “60 to 120 minutes of tai chi or dance per week could improve global cognition, even for adults who already had some impairment. These activities also appeared to positively affect cognitive flexibility — the ability to adapt to new and changing situations — language fluency, learning, memory and organization, even more than other mind-body pursuits.” We may be biased here, but we find these results hard to deny and, frankly, exciting. Dance isn’t necessarily a serious profession, but our instructors and staff take their job seriously. We know we can transform a newbie dancer to a veteran, enhance one’s physical and cognitive ability and help contribute to an individual’s longevity.


If you haven’t considered dance as a way to improve your overall health, you’re not too late to give it a try. The old adage “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” rings true here. If we don’t challenge ourselves mentally and physically, we run the risk of losing physical strength and mental acuity as we age. That’s why we hope you set the course now for your future. Join us in aging as gracefully as we dance. If science doesn’t sway you, we will, so contact us online or stop by soon.



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