The Happiness Connection  

Dancing can improve your mental health

The benefits of dance

After going to the Rockin’ River Country Music Fest in Merritt this summer, I’ve was more determined than ever to learn how to dance the Two-Step.

It turns out that following through with this goal will not only benefit my body, but it will also help my mind.

A growing body of evidence supports the theory that learning to dance improves both physical and mental health. Much of the current research has been focused on seniors, but if you’re younger, don’t dismiss it as not applicable to you.

Regardless of your age, learning a dance that involves specific moves has both mental and physical benefits. Zumba, Line Dancing and any partner dance will boost both happiness and health at every stage of life.

Physical benefits include:

• Increased coordination

• Better balance

• Reduced dizziness

• Healthier bones

• Strengthened heart, lungs, and circulatory system

• Improved core strength and muscle tone

• Expanded flexibility

• Superior special awareness

• Enhanced strength and endurance

• Weight management

• Lower blood pressure

Because learning new steps involves activating your brain, you can also:

• Increase mental acuity

• Improve your memory

• Lift your spirits and improve your state of mind

• Make it easier to learn and retain new information

• Reduce anxiety

• Alleviate feelings of loneliness

• Create a sense of belonging and social acceptance

• Ease depression symptoms

Generally speaking, humans love to dance. It’s something we’ve been doing since the dawn of time. Ceremonies and celebrations from almost every recorded civilization include dancing. Something in the human spirit seems to compel us to move our bodies to music.

If, like me, you enjoy a busy life, getting the most out of dancing doesn’t mean you have to find huge swathes of free time. Studies show that you only need an hour or two a week to reap the benefits. You don’t have to be fit, athletic, or young to get started, either.

It seems that memorizing steps, listening closely to music, and interacting with others is a great way to build your brain at any age and to lower the risk of cognitive decline when you’re older. Because any physical activity increases the blood flow to your brain, you may think running or yoga will provide you with the same benefits as dancing. But that isn’t the case.

One study compared dancing to brisk walking, and to stretch and balance training. All participants attended classes three times a week. The researchers used brain scans to measure the results. Those people in the dance classes showed less brain deterioration.

If these words inspire you to try a new type of dance, don’t worry if you haven’t got someone to go with. Dance classes cater for singles. Participants are encouraged to change partners throughout the lesson, so everyone gets a chance to learn.

Before I went to my first Two-Step lesson at the OK Corral in Kelowna, I assumed there would be far more women than men wanting to learn to dance. I was wrong. Each lesson I’ve attended has had more male participants than female ones.

I’m not sure why that surprised me. After all, in my experience, a man who can confidently lead a partner on the dance floor is always popular.

Dancing requires you to focus on a wide range of skills including balance, posture, agility, coordination, rhythm, flexibility, and memorization.

Combine that with music and you get a fun and joyful way to stay mentally and physically healthy from your youth, well into your sunset years.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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