Smart Dancing

by Sarina Condello, PhD

Dance is my passion. I have danced with children, artists, communities, seniors and performers from all over the world. Dance to me is the most extraordinary of the arts, for it is not just a rendered and symbolic statement about life, but instead is life itself.

I have always shared and applauded the joy and health benefits of dancing with my students and fellow dancers. Cardiovascular strength, agility, balance, beat acquisition, emotional stability and an overall sense of jubilation are the outcomes of dancing. What I did not know however, is that the practice of dancing will also make you smarter!

A new study, led by Albert Einstein College of Medicine New York City, has added to the growing body of evidence that dancing improves both mental and physical health. Dancing as a regular activity conditions the body, wards off Alzheimer’s and dementia, while increasing cognitive acuity. For 21 years, focusing specifically on the geriatric population, this study centered their research on how and what physical and cognitive activities directly influence brain functions such as memory, sense of well-being, serotonin and stress levels.

This fascinating paper looked at the implications of cognitive activities such as word games, creative writing and playing musical instruments, and also considered the outcome of physical activities such as cycling, swimming, jogging, tennis and doing chores and the relationship on the keenness of thought. To their surprise, none of these physical or cognitive activities helped ward off dementia. What they did find, however, is that dancing had the greatest risk reduction of dementia compared to any of the other cognitive or physical activities! The reasoning behind this is that dancing is a multifaceted neural connector. It simultaneously integrates your musical, kinesthetic, rational and emotional brain functions, which then further increases your neural connectivity.

This study also suggested that we should dance as often as we can. So to improve the health of your mind, body and soul, turn up the music and dance to your heart’s desire!


Sarina Condello

Sarina Condello travels the planet, studying and contributing to communities and cultures through the performing arts. She is the founder and director of Learning By Heart Studio, reaches thousands of orphaned children in Africa through her charity, Big Little Caravan, and has been a movement coach on numerous Canadian television series including Pop Stars and Way Off Broadway.

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