January 21

Music and Movement

This month our blog is all about Physical Fitness, the first of our New Perspective 4 Pillars for Living Life on Purpose®.  In our last post we encouraged the “do-able”: exercising just 20 minutes a day.  But integrating several of the Pillars at the same time is even better!  In this case, you can connect Physical Fitness with Brain Fitness and Social/Spiritual Enrichment—when you add music to the mix!


Exercise and Brain Fitness
First–why bother to exercise?  In addition to improving posture, and overall energy levels, exercise is essential for brain health, slowing age-related memory loss: Exercise for a Healthier Brain

Mix in Music
Add music to exercise and you help your brain become more ‘flexible’ in creating new cells and circuits.  According to Dr. Jon Lieff, past-president of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry and a specialist in the interface of psychiatry, neurology and medicine, “Exercise and music are triggers of metaplasticity—that is, they help other learning…effecting a large amount of the brain at once.”  Music can trigger powerful memories, as well as lighting up the language centers of the brain.

Swing Your Partner 
Exercising to music triggers neural connections throughout the brain, enhancing the benefits of exercise alone, especially when we learn dance movements.  Going through the physical steps of the dance with music becomes a narrative of its own, as the brain directs the body to move in defined ways.

shutterstock_11956699Steven Brown and Lawrence M. Parsons, in their Scientific American article, The Neuroscience of Dance, note that “True mastery requires a muscle sense, a motor image in the brain’s motion-planning areas.” If a dance step is mastered, relevant brain areas will ‘switch on’ when just watching the same type of dance.  If our residents once knew how to waltz, tango, jitterbug or swing, their brains will engage even while watching those dances, without actually doing them.  And dancing or moving in rhythm with a partner or in a group adds the social element of relationship and FUN!    So turn up the volume—and let’s dance:  Swing Dance (Bill Haley, 1956)

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Next post:  Using Music to Exercise





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