Dancers, pat yourselves on the back for all the great things you're doing for your body and mind--even if you didn't realize you were doing them!

Last week in Part One, we heard from Rachel (Owner of Alpha and Omega Dance Academy) on how she started dancing and why she loves it. This week we're looking at some of the specifics of how dance benefits people physically, mentally, and emotionally. So non-dancers, get ready to learn why you should dance. And dancers, keep on dancing!

Regardless of what older brothers might say, dance is a physical activity.

So like any physical activity, dance improves the condition of your heart (reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease), strengthens your muscles and bones (allowing for increased mobility as you get older), and increases bone density (reducing your risk of osteoporosis). Dance also helps you maintain a healthy weight, increases your rate of metabolism, and wards off disease by reducing the stress hormones that suppress your immune system!

Plus, there are extra benefits from dance that you might not get from other physical activities. Dance can lead to better flexibility (which decreases stiffness, joint pain, and chance of injury during day-to-day activity) and better balance. Balance is essential for all ages to reduce the risk of injuries due to falls, and one of the best ways to increase balance is through dance! Additionally, dance helps reduce back pain and allow for better breathing by encouraging good posture (this one is especially for all our ballet dancers--how many times has your teacher told you to straighten your back or keep your shoulders down? Mine has told me plenty of times).

But that’s just some of the physical benefits. What about the mental and emotional benefits?

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Dance can improve your memory and prevent you from developing dementia by reversing volume loss in the hippocampus, the part of your brain that controls memory. Dance also increases mental acuity and cognitive functioning. Basically, dance makes you smarter. Which makes sense… Think about all those intricate movements and specific counts you have to remember during a combination, while still being aware of your technique!

Furthermore (yes, there are still more reasons to dance), dance improves your confidence. You learn to step out of your comfort zone, to express yourself in movement, and to be okay with making mistakes. Dance also reduces depression and psychological stress. Maybe you’ve had an experience like me, when you’ve had a bad day and you’re stressed out and discouraged, but after dance class you feel better, and you can’t really explain why. One of the reasons you feel better is that by dancing, you’re actually releasing more endorphins into your body and regulating your levels of serotonin and dopamine! Put simply, dance makes you happier.

I know there were a lot of technical terms in this week's post, but the bottom line is that dance benefits us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Going back to our title question, Why Dance? Well, considering dance makes you stronger, smarter, and happier, I think the real question is Why Not?

            Did you already know about these benefits of dancing? Was there anything new to you? Are there reasons to dance that we didn’t get to in this post? Let us know by commenting below!