“If we cannot bring ourselves to dance, we become sick. Dancing heals”
Marion C. Garretty
Really, Belly Bolly dancing heals and stops you ageing? Too good to be true? Well, a 21-year study of people aged 75+ by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York looked at the effect of various activities on cognitive acuity, i.e. how quick thinking the people were. Aha: would this mean that Belly Bolly dance is anti-ageing?
Researchers measured the effectiveness of various activities on helping the brain to fire up neural pathways. The more pathways there are, the more that they contribute to anti-ageing by helping to stop memory loss and dementia:
a) cognitive activities like reading, playing cards and musical instruments, crosswords
b) physical activities like tennis, cycling, swimming, golf, dancing, housework (eek!), walking
RESULTS re reducing the risk of dementia:
golf/swimming/ cycling 0%
crossword at least 4 days a week 47%
dancing frequently 76%
…….no mention of housework, alas
So how is dancing so effective? Learning steps and sequences in Belly Bolly dance improves your memory. It fires up lots of neural pathways. This is anti-ageing. One measure of intelligence is that it’s what we use when we don’t already know what to do. Yup: that would be when you’re tackling new Belly Bolly choreographies! Improvising does you even more good because of the quick decisions that you have to make. This would be spontaneously creating patterns for improvised Egyptian baladi for a start.
Admittedly, this study looked at folks older than most of we dancers, though I have taught women well into their 70’s. I reckon that anything that keeps your brain flexible is worth doing. Belly Bolly dancing has all the other physical, emotional, social and fun benefits as well.
Sooner you start, the better!