Dancing Keeps You Young: How Musical Movement Can Slow Down the Signs of Aging

Americans are living longer than ever before. While older adults accounted for only 11 percent of the US population in 1985, seniors aged 65 and above are predicted to make up 20 percent of the population by 2030. That said, living longer doesn’t always indicate a higher quality of life. The longer we live, the more medical conditions many of us will have to manage. In most cases, that means healthcare costs will increase while physical and mental abilities decrease.

Many of us would love nothing more than to stumble across the fountain of youth. But in reality, staying young will require more than drinking from a magical stream. The more proactive you are about maintaining your health while you’re young, the more likely it will be that you’ll stay in good health as you age.

That means it’s essential to keep the mind sharp and the body moving. You can certainly go to the gym or do the daily crossword puzzle to stay in shape. But there’s one activity that can stimulate the brain and the body at the same time: dance.  

In 2018, 22.39 million people over the age of six participated in dance, step, and other types of choreographed exercise routines. But many people assume that the art of dance is one they can appreciate only from afar. Scientific evidence, however, tells us that engaging in dance can be one of the best things to keep us young. Even if you think you have two left feet, there are plenty of compelling reasons to kick up your heels and become a dancing fool.

It improves functional fitness

The physical aspects of dance can offer a host of benefits for older adults. Of course, physical inactivity can lead to a number of serious health consequences. Since physical inactivity is most commonly found in seniors aged 65 and older, staying agile and active should be a priority for the elderly. Studies have found that, regardless of dance style, this activity can facilitate drastic improvements in muscular strength, balance, endurance, flexibility, posture, coordination reaction time, and overall energy. 

The New York Times has even called dancing “the kale of exercise,” while others have pointed out that participating in dance may prevent many of the physical accidents to which seniors are prone. Since one in four older Americans falls each year and an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall every 11 seconds, the incentive to boogie down may be huge for seniors looking to retain their health and independence. 

It provides social stimulation

Dance can provide us with a means of artistic expression and emotional catharsis. It can also offer a way to connect with others. Human beings are highly social creations, but our opportunities for regular socialization tend to dwindle as we age. As a result, social isolation is a colossal problem for the senior population. Not only do 13.8 million seniors currently live alone, but social isolation and loneliness have been linked to health conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, cognitive decline, depression, and death. Even those who may live in an assisted living community in New Jersey or elsewhere throughout the country may experience negative health effects as a result of their loneliness.

When you enroll in a dance class or decide to shake it on the dance floor, you’re doing more than moving to the music. You’re also forming and strengthening bonds with others. In partner dancing, you’ll need to develop a sense of total trust between yourself and another person, as well as a relationship with your instructor. In a Zumba class or other informal setting, you can commiserate with others and support them when they achieve their goals. And when you perform a dance routine, you’ll establish a connection with your fellow dancers and your audience. Square dancing and categories like the foxtrot or the rumba are actually referred to as social dances because of the connection that’s required between participants. Coming together to share a common goal and a common experience is essential to the way we function socially–and dancing allows us to do just that.

It increases cognitive function

The physical and social benefits of dance aren’t necessarily surprising, but many are taken aback when they realize the positive impact that dancing has on mental health. Dance can act as a treatment for depression, anxiety, stress, and even deep emotional trauma. It’s also been suggested that dance can protect the brain and prevent cognitive decline.

Studies have found that aerobic exercise, and specifically dance routines, can decrease age related brain degeneration. In fact, dancing was more effective at providing these types of neuroprotective benefits than other types of exercise. When you sign up for dance lessons, you’ll be expected to learn and execute choreography, strengthen your mind-body connection, and perform movement in rhythm with music. It’s thought that this combination involves the areas of the brain that are not typically stimulated as individuals age. What’s more, dancing can improve memory function and decrease signs of brain deterioration. 

Because dance allows you to express your mind, body, and soul, it’s really not a shock that this activity is one of the best things you can do to slow down the signs of aging. Not only will you live a longer life when you dance, but you might enjoy your life even more while doing it.