Delhi: The researchers have identified an exercise for optimal physical and mental health.
According to the researchers at the University of California Berkeley, dancing can improve overall well being consisting of physical health, emotional health and brain health.
Dancing, prevalent from prehistoric times, is an essential element of humanity. Some have argued it to be as essential to life as drinking, sleeping and eating.
Given the significance of dance, since before the rise of the earliest human civilizations. It is surprising that the researchers have been able to closely study its health benefits only recently.
Dancing is good for both your mind and body as it activates brain pathways that produce and releases feel-good hormones — dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins — that are good for the brain.
- Dopamine is the key neurotransmitter for the brain’s reward pathway. It gets released when we anticipate, enjoy, or remember pleasurable moments. Music increases dopamine levels, which is also released by spontaneous body movements—like dancing.
- Oxytocin is the connection hormone and is released when we physically come in contact with or bond with other people, both intimately and socially. Release of this hormone dims anxiety and pain and highlights the promise of human connection; people feel more generous, cooperative, and willing to support one another under the influence of oxytocin.
- Serotonin enables emotional contentment and ease. Physical activity and exercise release serotonin. Healthy serotonin levels guard against anxiety and depression, improve sleep, and slows the ageing process in the brain.
- Endorphins are the pain-relief hormones produced by the nervous system to deal with discomfort during physical activity, pain, or stress. Endorphins steer biological reserves away from vigilant, self-defensive responses and free up energy to focus on dancing and connecting amicably with other people.
And interestingly, none of these chemicals works in isolation. They all influence one another in a complex, reciprocal feedback fashion, e.g., dopamine can “upregulate” serotonin, and the combination of simultaneous oxytocin and endorphins is a recipe for love. Together, science suggests, the combination of enjoyable music, coordinated exercise, and affable social interaction that comes with dancing together gives you a DOSE that promotes sustained health and happiness.
Dancing not only promotes good mental health but is also known to have physical benefits:
Lowers cardiovascular mortality risk. Moderate-intensity dancing was associated with a reduction in the risk for cardiovascular disease mortality more so than walking in a study.
Reduces the risk of dementia. Older adults who danced three or more times per week had a 76% reduction in their risk for dementia, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Counteracts age-related decline. After an 18-month dancing intervention, healthy seniors over 65 years of age experienced increases in hippocampal volume, primarily of the left hippocampus, with additional increases in the left dentate gyrus and the right subiculum, according to a recent study on hippocampal plasticity and balance abilities.
Improves physical fitness. Dancing significantly improved physical fitness, static balance, and handgrip strength in adults aged 60 years and older who attended twice-weekly, 75-minute, Greek traditional dance sessions for 32 weeks, according to the most recent study on the benefits of dance.
So, pick out your favourite dance move and groove like nobody is watching. Your mind and body will definitely be thankful to you.