Dance Away Dementia

I love to dance. Always have. In our family’s Super 8 home movies the camera pans around the guests at a birthday party, and then suddenly my face pops up, and I twirl and cartwheel to show off my moves. In one segment, I’ve coordinated a routine involving the lawn sprinkler, gracefully leaping through the spray. Then my little brother joins me and we run through the water from opposite directions, crossing in the middle. For a finale we leap together, holding hands.

Teaching my little brother to dance

Teaching my little brother to dance

I’ve taken ballet, tap, belly dance, hula, jitterbug, ballroom, Zumba, and a host of other dance classes. But the way I love to dance the most is with total abandon, no set rules or steps to coordinate. I’ve taken to dancing in my living room as a way to get some exercise without having to go to the pool or the gym, or lace up my hiking boots. I put my ear buds in because I like to listen to the music loud, and so as not to offend my neighbors or my bunny’s ears. I put on a playlist of my favorite grooves, and then just start moving. I dance for an hour with a little cool down and stretch afterwards.

There’s something magical about moving in a way that’s spontaneous and free. I feel euphoric after I’ve danced my hour. My body’s warm and tingling and my skin glows. My lungs expand. And I feel more creative–it’s a great exercise to do before writing or crafting or even cooking.

Out of curiosity I looked up how many calories I was burning in an hour of free-form dance. According to Harvard Health Publications, you burn about 180 calories in 30 minutes of fast dancing if you weigh 125 pounds. If you weigh 155 pounds, fast dancing for 30 minutes burns about 223 calories.

While researching calories burned, I came across a slew of statistics about how dancing can prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Apparently, moving spontaneously helps the brain stay active, as it quickly processes decisions about movement and coordination. Just today I saw this article at NPR  which talks about how the brain processes rhythm and its role in coping with Parkinson’s Disease and other neurological diseases.

Bonus! Not only does dancing burn calories and feel great, but it can help your brain as you age! Sometimes I wonder what would happen if the UPS man showed up while I was dancing, as I usually have my doors and windows open. For a moment I fear that I might look foolish, but then I remember that I’m dancing to keep my faculties intact. And perhaps I’d just invite him to join me…





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