Have you ever taken a long walk or worked out to “clear your mind?” There’s actual science behind this--a link between focused physical activity and cognitive function. Dance is another exercise that can help clear your head, but it can do so much more than that. In fact, several studies actually claim that dance can make you smarter. Here are some ways that dancing regularly can increase brain activity.
Dance requires use of the cerebral cortex and hippocampus, two key sections of the brain when it comes to neuroplasticity, and they rewire neural pathways based on use. The more you dance, the more often those neural pathways are rewired. It’s like a regular refresh for your brain. This strengthens cognitive functions and helps you to think more quickly, literally on your feet. With strengthened cognitive functions comes strengthened problem solving, as well.
Decreased Risk of Dementia
The cognitive benefits of dancing can help anyone at any age, but dancing can also help decrease the risk of dementia in the elderly. The strengthened cognitive acuity and rewiring of neural pathways strengthens memory. The use of new neural pathways is called parallel processing, and it becomes more important as those neural pathways start to deteriorate with age. The more neural pathways you’ve created, the more your brain will be able to continue processing as you get older.
Dance is an art, and it’s a creative art at that. Dance students learn to express themselves with their body more than just their words. They learn new ways to communicate and show emotions and ideas. While creativity is a more unconventional form of intelligence than academic intelligence, it’s no less important. What would the world be like without art and new creations? Creativity also strengthens problem solving skills as it allows the problem solver to see options that might never have been considered before.
To dance well, you have to be able to devote your whole attention to your steps and the rhythm of the music, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about energy. Children in particular have bundles of pent-up energy. When they don’t have the opportunity to channel that energy into something interesting, they can become distracted and struggle to focus on academic work. Dance allows kids a healthy, productive way to use that energy. Regular dance and similar workouts also keep their circulation in good order so that they’re less prone to lethargy. In essence, if kids have a couple hours to just dance it out, they’ll be able to focus the rest of their energy on their homework and studying for their test.
Often what seems like a lack of intelligence is actually a lack of confidence in one’s intelligence. Dance has been shown many times to increase confidence, and that carries over into other aspects of your life. Through dancing you learn your strengths as well as your limits, and with that knowledge you can focus on those strengths with much more self-assurance, and diligently work to improve your weaknesses. When you know that you are capable and don’t feel that you’re doomed for failure from the start, you’ll be more confident in putting forth your ideas or suggestions.
Dance is a wonderful practice for many reasons: health, leisure, or just a way to make friends and learn discipline. But the constant movement and discipline of dance can also work wonders on the mind, from children to the elderly. It’s just one more reason why it’s so important to find a good dance class.