Neuroplasticity is a word that you may have heard someone talk about on a talk show or seen in a headline; but, what is it exactly, and how does dance play a role in this new buzz word?
I hope this short article will inspire you to take a dance class... no matter what age you are, no matter what skill you are. We all start as beginners. Dance is good for you.
Let's review a bit about our brains.
The brain is an organ with multiple parts that manage everything that happens with our bodies and consciousness. It is responsible for the things we don't notice, such as hormonal regulation that allows for proper organ function (our heart beat, digestion, etc...), to the things we do notice such as an itch, heat, coldness, pain, absence of pain, thoughts, visual cues... the list goes on. It is responsible for our emotional responses as well, as our senses interpret what is happening around us at all times.
Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to adapt. When we learn (or when our brains are healing after injury), our brains can modify connections and/or make new ones (rewire itself, so to speak) to continue to function at its highest level. Neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to make new connections, is how we have the potential to learn from infancy, or learn a new skill. Or, for someone with a brain injury, re-learn.
How dance affects neuroplasticity is interesting. Dance uses physical movement, which includes the left and right side of the brain. Dance also requires the brain to control the physical movement, and then also make decisions about how that movement is done (this promotes critical thinking). And every student of dance must memorize and then recall information such as dance steps (vocabulary), how to do them (technique), and in what sequence (choreography).
When instructors teach dance properly, they use correct vocabulary and technique, and then assign appropriate choreography (not too difficult or too easy) that gives the student something to practice, and become better at over time.
Our cognitive function has to do with our awareness of what is going on around us, as well as how we fit into the environment around us. Cognitive function includes our perception, attention, memory, decision making, language comprehension.
You can see how dance can enhance our ability to do these things since dance uses perception, attention, memory, decision making, and language comprehension, but there are actual studies that have proven the benefits of dance.
And, beyond cognitive function, any form of exercise where the heart rate is increased can help keep our organs, and therefore body as a whole, healthy.
Exercise and the Benefits
The short list of how exercise benefits the body includes:
regulating insulin levels (avoiding or managing diabetes)
increasing circulation that is necessary for the health of all organs and tissues (including the brain, which has a large network of blood vessels)
strengthening the integrity of the musculoskeletal system (which, when done properly, helps arthritic joints, helps people avoid falls)
These benefits are the short list to what exercise does for the body, but for many in our society, this list of three things might include at least one reason why everyone should all be moving more.
Dance and the Benefits
Dance uses multiple aspects of your brain when compared to aerobic exercises, or resistance training because it uses assigned language, structured movement, timing in music, changes in pace or tempo, changes in directions, and the right and left side of your body... all while recalling movement that is taught in a sequence called choreography.
With all the physical benefits of dance... and now you know that dance has the ability to enhance your brain's health... what's holding you back?
I host one-on-one sessions in an online environment at affordable rates, and all styles of dance work the brain (plus it's fun!!).
All I can do is invite you to try it!!
Contact me here: email@example.com
Training changes everything,