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Celebrate Life with Dance

by Mary Beth Janssen

I’m a huge advocate of dance and enjoy it as one of my “meditation in motion” activities along with yoga and walking.

The Incredible Benefits

Did you know that dancing makes you smarter? A major study has demonstrated how dancing increases cognitive acuity at all ages and can ward off dementia as much as physical exercise can keep the body fit.

The 21-year study of senior citizens was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study was designed to see if physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.

One of the surprises yielded by the study was that most of the physical activities appeared to offer limited, if any, protection against dementia. There can be cardiovascular benefits, of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.

There was one important exception: frequent dancing. Bicycling, swimming and playing golf, reduced risk of dementia by zero percent. Dancing frequently, 76 percent! That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

Dancing was shown to reduce stress and depression; increase energy and serotonin levels; improve flexibility, balance, strength and endurance; strengthen bones and boost cardiovascular health; increase mental capacity by exercising our cognitive processes; and stimulate dynamic and rapid fire decision-making creating new neural pathways.

Everybody Dance Now

Dance resonates deeply within us, and it is something that comes naturally. Just look at a baby. The moment they make it onto their feet—they’re dancing!

Dance makes you feel powerful, and when you feel powerful, you feel good. Your heart gets a great workout, you increase the flow of oxygenated blood through the body, get those endorphins flowing and thoroughly energize yourself. And when you dance, you let go. You unknot, unfurl and disengage your brain, letting your body take over.

Dance is incredibly therapeutic. There are even dance therapy organizations. Dance therapists work with people with physical disabilities, addiction issues, sexual abuse histories, eating disorders and other concerns.

Shamans and indigenous peoples the world over have practiced trance dance for thousands of years. This ancient transformative and healing technique has become quite popular recently. Don’t be afraid to try! For more information on Ecstatic Dance, see ospa.me/ecstatic-dance

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