How Dancing Improves Brain Function
You've probably watched your instructors glide effortlessly across the dance floor and thought to yourself, "They make it look so easy." This is because they've strengthened their balance, focus and overall memory through repeated exercise of their biggest muscle: the brain.
"Going Through the Motions" Leads to Better Memory
New studies are suggesting that dance marking (a learning method that involves going through the motions of dance moves without performing them at full speed) can reduce the mental strain needed to perform at a high level because your brain is synchronizing the cerebrum and cerebellum.
Dancing is actually mentally exhausting as well as physically, but that's what makes it so beneficial for your brain. What you are doing during this type of marking is essentially visualizing the steps more efficiently, therefore reducing the overall strain on your body so that your brain can take over.
A professor of dance at the University of California, Santa Cruz claimed that "marking could be strategically used by teachers and choreographers to enhance memory and integration of multiple aspects of a piece precisely at those times when dancers are working to master the most demanding material."
Now, just think of all the areas in your life in which you could use this increased cognitive function to your benefit. The visualization techniques learned in dance increase your brain function and could lead to maximized performance across many different aspects of your life.
The same dance professor noted that "smaller scale movement systems with low energetic costs such as speech, sign language, and gestures may likewise accrue cognitive benefits, as might be the case in learning new multisyllabic vocabulary or working on one's accent in a foreign language." So, dancing could essentially lead you to such a maximized brain that you'll be speaking Spanish with the perfect Colombian accent in no time!
Dancing Prepares Your Brain to Learn
Did your mom ever tell you to take a deep breath before going into a big test? This is probably because, along with being a great way to regain focus, deep breathing combined with physical activity allows blood to flow more easily to your brain. When your brain has sufficient oxygen and blood flow, it can function at its full capacity. Dancing is an activity that allows this type of blood pumping to occur, essentially preparing your brain to learn.
Dr. Joseph Coyle of Harvard Medical School believes that dancing makes you smarter (but we already thought you were smart to begin with). His studies have revealed that the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex (both of which are activated during dancing) are rewired and consequently improved the more you use them. What does that mean? It means that the more you activate these areas of your brain, the stronger they become, and the smarter you become!
He says that the "dynamism required in decision-making -- for example, what step you need to do next -- paves the way for new neural paths that make information transmission faster and better."
What Kinds of Dancing Improve Brain Function?
While any sort of physical activity will ultimately increase your overall well-being, dances that require split-second decisions and involve leading and following tend to be better for increased cognitive function.
To get started exercising the biggest, and honestly most attractive muscle, you've got, take a look at our ballroom and Latin dance classes to get started today. Nothing is sexier than an intelligent mind.