Taking 10 Minutes for Some Heart-Pumping, Joy-Inducing Dance Can Come With Major Brain Health Benefits
It’s astonishing how quickly just bopping around to a song that comes on your Spotify playlist can get you out of breath. That’s because dancing is one form of cardio that can get your heart pumping without you even noticing it. Your focus is on the fun, not the effort—which pays off in the release of joy-inducing chemicals.
“Dance workouts condition your body and mind simultaneously,” says Katia Pryce, the DanceBody instructor on Alo Moves. “As much as dance is a great way to improve your core, flexibility, coordination, and overall strength, it’s an equally great way to trigger the release of ‘happy chemicals’ like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins in the brain. This powerful combination enhances your mood, and reduces stress and anxiety.”
Dancing's ability to condition your mind, however, is about more than chemicals. In a cardio dance routine (as opposed to getting your groove on freestyle), you are also focusing on nailing the moves, and on their execution. This is good for your brain because you’re learning new skills, which can improve memory and cognition.
So even if you’re not a dancer, trying out a dance routine could pay off in a multitude of ways—just remember to extend yourself grace if it doesn’t come easily to you.
“It’s an acquired skill and there is a learning curve,” Pryce says. “Learning to dance engages your brain in a unique way, so be patient with yourself as you develop new neural pathways for coordination and rhythm.”
A great place to start is with a short, snackable series of moves, like in this new cardio dance routine for Well+Good's Trainer of the Month Club from professional dancer and Lululemon Studio instructor Amanda Baxter. In just 10 minutes, Baxter will take you through a routine that’s challenging, but totally digestible.
You’ll learn six moves in total. You’ll learn the first three, then run through those three all together. Then you’ll repeat that with moves four through six. Finally, you’ll put them all together. And you’ll stay moving with a “step touch” home base throughout to get in that cardio workout.
The moves themselves are compound steps, so memory and coordination will come into play.
“That one’s a little bit of a thinker,” says Baxter of the fourth move, which she calls a "giddyup with funky knees." “But at the end of the day, you’ve got this.”
And remember: Even if you’re focusing on learning the moves, this is still a time to inhabit your body, and let your joy shine through.
“Show off your personality,” Baxter says. “You’re in the comfort of your own space, so rock with it.”
You can continue to build your skills with more dance workouts here, or on AloMoves with Katia Pryce's DanceBody program that has options to tone muscles and build dance skills, or progressively learn, perfect, and perform a routine.
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