DANCING – A Prescription for Health

This post may be surprising to those of you who follow my blogs on the topic of murder.  Today I’m going to deviate from those darker, homicidal issues and talk about another of my passionsballroom dancing.

Why include such a topic under “Prescription For Murder”?  Because this week I’m in the mountains of Vermont at a Ballroom Dance Camp and I’m sure my wife would have murdered me if I hadn’t come.  In fact, she might even consider homicide if she knew that right now I’m in a corner writing rather than practicing my dance steps.

Actually, I love ballroom dancing and believe that I’m healthier and maybe a little smarter as a result.  There’s even scientific evidence to support the “smarter” part of my belief.

A recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine boldly stated that dancing was the BEST physical activity to provide appreciable protection against dementia.  The statistics were surprising!  Golf offered 0% protection against dementia; reading, 35%; doing crossword puzzles at least four times a week, 47%; and dancing offered the greatest at a staggering 76%.

Studies show that dancing stimulates the cerebral cortex (that part of the brain involved in memory, attention span and thought processes).  With mental stimulation, the cerebral cortex goes into action and even REWIRES itself based on need.  Repetitive activities (like a golf swing) may no longer cause enough mental stimulation to help the brain remain functional.

When that concept is applied to dancing, it’s been shown that certain ones are better than others.  All forms of dancing may provide cardiovascular stimulation and benefit our bodies (like walking that golf course instead of using an electric cart) but the type of dancing that requires us to learn something new and to react continually is the most helpful to our brains.

That means the so-called “lead and follow dancing” (like waltz, foxtrot, swing, cha cha, etc.) may be BEST at stimulating the cerebral cortex.  Those dances require split-second decision-making for the leader to direct the partner and the partner to interpret that lead quickly into the next step.

So in addition to keeping us heart-healthy, those rapid-fire dance floor decisions stimulate our brains as well.  And it doesn’t really matter if the dance is slow or fast.  It’s the continued decision-making as to where our feet should go next that makes the difference, even when we’re sure we have two left feet.

The GOOD NEWS is that, with some practice, we learn – and those two left feet eventually right themselves into graceful dancing.

Thoughts?  Comments?  I’d love to hear them!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in About Dancing, About James J. Murray, Ballroom Dancing, Dancing and the Brain, Dancing for Health and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to DANCING – A Prescription for Health

  1. I’ll make a point of hiding this from my wife!

  2. Arlee Bird says:

    I’m no dancer for sure and my wife is probably less of one than I am. But I do love watching good ballroom dancing and Fred Astaire is one of my heroes–he had some nice ballroom moves.

    Wrote By Rote

  3. I’ve been called “Fred” only because my wife’s name is Ginger, not because of my dancing!

  4. My wife wants us to take some kind of dancing lessons…ballroom, line dancing, something. I’ve resisted to date, because it will significantly reduce my annual cash flow. Anytime I need a buck right now, I just have to dance in public – and people throw many so I’ll stop 🙂
    Great article, my friend, and very sage advice…:)

  5. Pingback: My friend, author Jim Murray, with some great – and somewhat surprising – advice “DANCING – A Prescription for Health” « Thomas Rydder

  6. Sandra says:

    All of which might explain the popularity of the TV show, “So You Think You Can Dance.” Gotta keep on movin’ to stay healthy!

  7. I think the saying “Use it or lose it” applies here. Lots of fun also and a great way to make new friends!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s