How Dancing Can Help You Live Longer
Shake it! Move it and groove it! That’s what researchers are saying you should do if you want to live longer.
Shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With the Stars” are sticking around TV land.
“Footloose,” “Save the Last Dance,” “Dirty Dancing” and “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” are classic dance films that make you want to get up and move.
Research is now saying that dancing is key to living longer, and may be even better for your health than endurance exercise.
You may not feel young enough to go to the club, but you can live longer and boost your energy levels by engaging in social dance lessons or doing dance-based exercise routines.
The Link Between Longevity and Dance
As you age, your physical health declines, and you notice increasing limitations in your ability to engage in activities with levels of high endurance and extensive physical movement. Muscles and bones ache. Joints make strange noises.
If you get a Charley horse, how can you do the foxtrot? How does dance benefit your aging body?
A recent study revealed dancing has a profoundly positive effect on the brain’s aging. It’s been previously shown that exercise slows down the decline in physical and mental capacity due to the effects of aging.
But this new study reveals that some forms of activity are more beneficial than others. The two forms of exercise that were the most effective were endurance training and dancing, but only dancing affected behavior when it came to improving balance in its senior participants.
Volunteers around an average age of 68 were assigned weekly dance routines — also focused on flexibility — and endurance training for 18 months. Over this time, both groups had an increase of activity in the hippocampus area of the brain, where much age-related decline occurs.
For example, this area of the brain is affected by Alzheimer’s, as it plays an important role in learning and memory and is connected to maintaining balance.
The study challenged volunteers with different forms of dance routines from various cultures and genres, such as square, line, salsa and jazz dancing. Steps, turns, arm patterns, speed, formation and rhythm changed every two weeks to evolve the learning process and challenge the volunteers. Senior participants had to recall these routines without instructor cues and under time constraints.
These challenges are considered to be the major factor that influenced the noticeable shift in balance achieved by the group of dancers.
The revelation has led researchers to evaluate a system of dance routine and exercise called “Jymmin,” which comes gymnastics and jamming.
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Forms of Dance to Try Now for Increased Longevity
You don’t have to wait to get out there and dance to boost your health and lead a longer life. Anyone at any age or stage of life can start learning to dance, and once you know the basic moves, you can practice your skills at home.
Getting involved with dance will also increase other areas of health and wellness, improving cardiovascular health, bone mass and weight loss and also treating depression and anxiety.
For example, dancing boosts your heart rate as a type of aerobic exercise, improving your heart health. In one survey, 97 percent of people chose a voucher for dancing the tango over mindfulness meditation, though both are shown to relieve depression and anxiety.
Start a cross-training routine by alternating yoga classes with Zumba. If you prefer working out in a group setting, it may be more beneficial to take a social dancing class in line dancing, swing or blues.
Try Latin dancing, and feel proud of those basic moves in salsa — it’s only three steps. Or, spice things up and learn the romantic Caribbean dance of bachata with your husband, wife or partner.
Who knows, you may be showing the stars some moves next year! So, get out there and dazzle on the dance floor to live a longer and healthier life.
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