At last, we are beginning to have scientific information to show the inextricable link between the body and mind in keeping us healthy and fit. As human beings we are meant to be moving. Movement provides the physiological release that we need to bring our bodies back into balance. Stagnation is a problem for many people in today’s society. Computers and television have further contributed to our already sedentary lifestyle. Inactivity can hasten the decline of our mental abilities, cause obesity and contribute to many of today’s stresses.
Moving is good for our bodies and brains. When we combine movement with a learning activity, such as dance, we get extra benefits because new connections form in the brain as a result of learning a new task. As new aspects of dance are introduced, the brain produces a greater number of connections between its neurons (pathways), which create a brain that is better able to process more information. Coordinated movements, as in dance, increase concentration, will power and balance and also enhance the ability to cope with physical and emotional stress.
Movement may also help us solve problems we are stuck on. When we start moving, we activate the brain, which can help us in many undefined ways. The old saying “I think better on my feet” is a good example. Many people are finding that movement makes them feel more invigorated and fit, and it also helps them sort out things that are on their minds or solve vexing problems.
Exercise that involves learning complex movements can impact on our brains in other ways. Dance involves a host of coordinated movements and practicing them causes more connections to grow between neurons. Dance which helps us to improve balance and coordination may not only help overcome clumsiness but also reduces shyness and even enhances the ability to make friends. Studies have also shown that as adult students gain control over their bodies, they also gain control over their lives.
The reason being is that the parts of the brain which coordinate physical movement. Namely, the primary motor cortex, basal ganglia and cerebellum, also co ordinates the movement of thought. Just as they order the physical movements needed for moving, they order the sequence of thoughts needed for thinking. A 21 year study of senior citizens, 75 and over led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City found that frequent free style dancing makes us smarter, and offers protection against dementia.
If you wish to read further see: socialdance.stanford.edu and A User’s Guide to the Brain by John Ratey M.D.