Life Hacks: Dance Every Day to Prevent Dementia
We recreate (yes, as in the verb at the root of the word recreation) quite a bit around these parts of the great American West and one activity I’m particularly fond of is getting my groove on to Jackie Wilson’s Higher and Higher. Why? Because, research shows that physical activities spur the growth of versatile new brain cells in humans and when used correctly, brain cells make us smarter.
Dance is unique from your run of the mill jog around the block, however, in that at its core it provides a platform for a myriad of solutions to any one problem. When we lift our leg up for instance, we can do so any number of ways and once its airborne our organism will work across the board to ensure stability and balance before reiterating the process mere moments later as we throw our arms up, point our toes and spin. This type of on the spot decision making necessitates sharp focus, fast-paced strategic thinking, versatility of execution, and continuous adjustment.
Dancing is thus special to our brains because it not only improves our cognitive prowess by creating new neurons, but also because the quick and precise decision making inherent to it (and other activities like skiing and snowboarding through the woods for instance) causes the formation of an intricately connected (by way of synapses) neuronal network, which in turn serves as one of the most powerful protective factors capable of preventing the onset of dementia symptoms.
Basically, by dancing you are both creating new neurons and ensuring that they are put to use before they die (neurons must connect to the network or perish). The thicker and better connected the neurons in your brain network, the more able you will be to withstand and overcome both psychological and biological adversities of all forms.
So, before your brain turns to mush friends, grab your tutu and dance your heart away.
Clark, P. J., Bhattacharya, T. K., Miller, D. S., Kohman, R. A., DeYoung, E. K., & Rhodes, J. S. (2012). New neurons generated from running are broadly recruited into neuronal activation associated with three different hippocampus‐involved tasks. Hippocampus, 22(9), 1860-1867.
Powers, R. (2010). Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter.
Yau, S. Y., Lau, B. W. M., & So, K. F. (2011). Adult hippocampal neurogenesis: A possible way how. Cell transplantation, 20(1), 99-111.