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Dancing to improve brain power!

Dance to improve brain power!

After a days dancing in various carehomes the other day, I was invited to a lecture at my local university on the benefits of dancing and how it can be better for us than many conventional forms of exercise. There was a speaker from the dementia association in attendance, as well as psychologists specialising in neuroscience. Also, I was asked to say a few words on the benefits that I had seen first hand from dancing with residents in the carehomes that I go to.

It was a very last minute invitation and so I hadn’t really had time to prepare anything, so I thought, as is quite often the way, I would do it off the cuff.

The neuroscientist was absolutely fascinating telling us how dancing in particular can trigger new stimulus in the brain and help to strengthen the part of the brain associated with music and movement. She made a reference to a podcast by Dr Michael Mosley that she had been listening to, in which he had been having a similar discussion on how dancing can improve balance and coordination and increase the size of the brain!

It was then my turn to stand up and say my piece. All I could really talk about was experience, as obviously I am not as qualified as the lady who spoke before me, but I had plenty of examples of how I had persuaded people to have a dance with me, whether there were sat in their chair, encouraged to stand because of the music and watching me with others, or actually dance a foxtrot or jive with me!

The lady that I am dancing with in the picture below was always in a wheelchair when she was around the home and I had never even seen her stand before! However, with the music playing and after seeing me dance with a couple of other residents, she plucked up the courage to stand with me and take a few steps. Since that first time, she will now do a Waltz, quickstep or foxtrot with me, singing along to the music and we have even tried some of the faster dances!

The people at the lecture asked me some questions, generally about how I encouraged the residents to join in and whether I had seen any benefits first hand. I was able to give plenty of examples of how the dancing had improved peoples wellbeing, getting them to smile and laugh along and of course get some exercise, which for some of them was the only form of exercise they would have. One lady in particular was always quite anxious and apparently would hardly ever come out of her room and join in with the activities. However, the dancing had brought her out of her shell a bit, she started socialising more and was generally much more positive!

I have many examples of similar situations to this from the carehomes that I currently go to and I always count myself lucky that I love what I do so much, knowing that it is of great benefit to everyone.

So I would encourage you to get up and have a dance if you can, move along to the music and laugh! And, if you are in a carehome, try and get the residents to come along to some dancing, or better still, book me to come along, get them all dancing and laugh while I make a fool of myself!

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