So, 29th April of every year is regarded as the International Day for Dance. Before I commence this post, I will start by saying that I have learnt Bharatanatyam. (You can read about it here: Bharatnatyam). Saadar Pranaam to my Bharatanatyam Guru Prema Subramani, Chennai, India.
(Me aged 9, just before my first stage performance)
So why is Dance of relevance to mental health?
A 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine revealed that dance can decidedly improve brain health. It investigated the impact of 11 different types of physical activity such as: dancing, cycling, golf, swimming, tennis etc., but found that only dancing lowered participant’s risk of dementia.
So how did this happen?
PET scans of brains revealed that dancing was viewed as far more challenging and thereby activated more brain regions than the other physical activities. And as we all know, an active brain is less likely to be prone to be forgetful thereby lowering future risk of the onset of dementia.
In yet another study by researchers of Minot State University in 2012, it was revealed that Zumba improves mood and certain cognitive skills like visual recognition and decision-making.
Zumba Image source: Google
People diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease were presented with a series of fixed rhythms and are asked to move in tune with them. Studies of the effects of this technique has on patients with Parkinson’s or other movement disorders have found significant improvements in gait and upper extremity function among participants.
According to Dr. Daniel Tarsy, MD Neurology, dance can be considered a form of rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS). Parkinson’s disease shows symptoms like bradykinesia (slowed movement), stiffness of the limbs and trunk area, tremors and impaired balance & coordination. In Tarsy’s words “It is these symptoms that dance has found to alleviate according to a lot of consistent observational research (not hard science).”
Also dancing helps secrete endorphins that help alleviate pain, serotonin (the feel-good hormone) that boosts self esteem and in general improves mood.
In the words of Dance Choreographer Abhishek Naidu,
“Dance is that drug of my life that keeps me high all the time. This beautiful addiction is what has kept me alive and fit. Every time I step on the dance floor I feel more lively and energetic. It’s what keeps me breathing. When I was low and depressed, dance is what made it colourful and positive. Every time I tried a new combination of drug( different styles of dance) my addiction towards it increased and became more intense and the positive vibes started multiplying. May this World Dance Day let you into the world of dancers and may it consume you and get you addicted to it and make your life more interesting and positive.”
Image source: google
So now that we have grok danced, shall we dance and prance?
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