It's Not Just About The Cardio

07 Dec 2017 - by Graham

When you think of the fitness benefits of dance you immediately think of the cardio work-out that you get on the dance floor, and the way that we keep getting told that we need to do something that "raises our heart rate several times a week". Gym instructors, personal trainers, and doctors are always telling us to do something we enjoy that gets our blood pumping and that's the key to fitness, but is that all there is to it? Not that there would be anything wrong with that of course, but does dancing have any benefits over and above a run or a session on the work-out bikes?

Perhaps surprisingly, research shows that it does.

Over the past few years, a number of scientific studies (you can read one here) have been performed that link regular and frequent dancing to improved brain function and a delay in the onset or progression of neurological conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Where people with these conditions have continued to dance or have taken up regular dancing for the first time the early symptoms have been noticeably reduced, and progression through the stages has been significantly delayed. This is of tremendous benefit to people with these conditions, as quality of life can suffer very early and anything that helps delay their onset is worth trying. But why does it work? And does it have the same effect on people without these conditions?

Improvised dances such as Argentine Tango force us to "think on our feet", and this requirement to constantly adapt to the situation around us helps form new neural pathways in our brain. This neuroplasticity as it's called is critical as it allows our brains to form connections that bypass the areas affected by conditions such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. It's like getting faster broadband at home... you can do more at once even if things are getting a bit clogged up because there are more connections, more routes for the signals to travel. But the additional pathways form even if we don't have these neurological conditions, so alertness, concentration, and problem-solving may also benefit from regular improvised dancing.

Most of these studies have concentrated on the relative neurological benefits of dancing Argentine Tango when compared against ballroom dancing, ballet, or similar choreographed dance styles. Very little has been said about LeRoc, but this seems to be primarily because comparatively little LeRoc / Modern Jive is danced in the USA and as that is where the majority of the research has been carried out it did not feature in the study. It is however clear from the description of the processes involved that Jivebeat LeRoc would likely be just as beneficial in the prevention and inhibition of certain neurological conditions as Argentine Tango.

In the next couple of posts I will be looking at the detail of how Tango and LeRoc give their benefits, and what you can do to take advantage of them.

For more information about Parkinson's, please see the Parkinson's UK website.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Fitness  Cardio  Neurological  Health  

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