Get into the Groove

Get into the Groove
Moving to the music can make you happier, smarter, and a whole lot healthier—so just dance!
 Whenever the super-stressed residents on Grey’s Anatomy bust out in an impromptu dance party, it must be because they know how healing it is—they are doctors, after all (well, TV ones, at least)! Truth is, shaking your booty is remarkably healthy, and not just in a fitness-and-weight loss kind of way. Dancing can preserve your brainpower, improve your outlook, grow your social circle, and protect your most important organs…even if you have no rhythm.
Get into the Groove

Born with a Beat
Ever wonder why the second you hear, say, Beyoncé’s latest chart topper, you automatically start tapping your feet or otherwise moving to the beat? “It’s an instinctive response,” says Costas Karageorghis
, Ph.D., a music and sports researcher and coauthor of Inside Sport Psychology. Yup, you’re hardwired to sync up your own movements to music, possibly because even primitive cultures used rhythmic movements to express themselves. Richard Ebstein, Ph.D., a professor in the psychology department at the National University of Singapore, adds that it’s a universal phenomenon. Even birds and bees use dance to
communicate.
The instinctual rhythm response starts in your brain, where musical vibrations light up timing circuits that prompt you to reflexively bust a move. These same circuits are intertwined with
your brain’s communication and memory systems, which is why songs can trigger
emotional reactions—and why you may find yourself
singing, swaying, and choking up to “My Boo,”
despite yourself.
But while it’s true that everyone “feels” the beat in this way, it’s also true that some people’s mind-beat connection is a little stronger.
Your dance-crazy pals who seem as if they were born to boogie? They might well have been: Experts believe that genetics play a role in complex behavioral traits (e.g., having an affinity for shaking it like Shakira). The trick is, environmental factors also
have an impact. If you don’t have much opportunity to dance, you may never
know that you have a natural talent for it.

Get on the Floor— for Your Health
You don’t have to have moves like Jagger to reap any of dancing’s health-enhancing benefits. “The brain rewires itself based on the use,” explains Joe Verghese, M.D., a professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The more time you spend on the dance floor, the more you train your brain to open those feel-good floodgates—and the more
you’ll start to amp up your overall well-being.
To wit, a study in Circulation: Heart Failure found that people with cardiac  conditions who danced for just 20 minutes three times a week saw their heart health improve significantly more than those who stuck to traditional cardio workouts.
Dancing can also help make your skeleton strong, per the National Osteoporosis
Foundation, and it does wonders for your overall makeup: When researchers
compared dancers with nondancers, they found evidence that dancing may preserve both motor skills and perceptual abilities.
The ample flow of mood improving chemicals that dancing releases means, of course, that raising the roof can elevate your mental state. Just one lively dance session can slay depression more than vigorous exercise or listening to upbeat music, according to a study in The Arts in Psychotherapy. Getting jiggy with others also leads to less stress and stronger
social bonds, key factors in both mental and physical health, says Verghese.
But perhaps the coolest part about grooving is that it saves your mind—literally. Dancing
gives your noggin’s memory, coordination, and focus areas an intense workout, leading
to stronger synapses and beefed-up gray matter. The result: Dancers can be sharper
in the short term and less likely to succumb to brain diseases in the long run. A New England
Journal of Medicine study of 11 physical activities found that dancing was the only one
that lowered dementia risk by a whopping 76 percent.
It’s never too late to augment your health by getting down, whether you start small by rocking out while cleaning your digs or go big and sign up for a class.
However you choose to move, you can glean the biggest rewards by doing it for 20 to
30 minutes most days of the week. What are you waiting for? Go cut a rug.

All Fitness ___ Get into the Groove

By Selene Yeager

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