Lessons from Sesame Street – Part 5

This is the fifth and final part of our series based on nextavenue.org’s article, 5 ‘Sesame Street’ Lessons We Need Again as Adults.

Lesson 5: When All Else Fails, Dance

Watch how this adorable little girl freestyles with Paul Simon:

You know that feeling of just being able to let loose on the dance floor? Whether you’re at a nightclub with friends, at a wedding, having an impromptu dance party with your kids, or taking ballroom lessons with your partner, dancing can be a fun and freeing experience. After a night of spirited dancing, it’s not uncommon to hear, “Man, I haven’t felt that good in ages!” or “That was one of the best nights of my life!”

dance_like_no_one__s_watching_by_smilelikeanangelWhether you “trip the light fantastic” in public or are more of a closet dancer who only cuts a rug at home when no one’s looking, you have to admit that when you’re dancing, you can revel in some of those rare moments in life to really let your hair down, be silly, let your individuality shine, and release your inhibitions. There’s no right or wrong when you’re dancing — it’s spirit-lifting, mood-enhancing, even relationship-building…

I wonder if the writers of Sesame Street realized the profound wisdom and science backing up this lesson when they had Paul Simon play his ditty on the guitar. As it turns out, research has shown that dancing provides some pretty incredible benefits to body, mind, and spirit.

According to Psychology Today, dancing improves brain function on a number of levels. It also has the power to boost happiness and mental health in adolescents, according to Prevention magazine:

Swedish researchers, writing in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, studied 112 teenage girls who were struggling with problems including neck and back pain, stress, anxiety, and depression. Half of the girls attended weekly dance classes, while the other half didn’t. The results? The girls who took the dance classes improved their mental health and reported a boost in mood—positive effects that lasted up to eight months after the classes ended.

The Albuquerque Journal presents mental, physical, and emotional benefits to dancing, this time in older generations:

Researcher Terry Eckmann of Minot State University in North Dakota, recently studied a small group of seniors, 65 to 91, and found that after 12 weeks of Zumba, a Latin-style dance fitness program, subjects had improved moods and more nimble cognitive skills, like visual recognition and decision-making. Dancers were also stronger and more agile, she says.

… Other benefits of dance, supported by research, include improved cardiovascular function, increased lower body strength, balance development, enhanced agility and coordination, improved gait, stronger bones, improved and reduced depression and boosted self esteem and confidence, Eckmann says.

Jitterbug_dancers_NYWTSEckmann was inspired by a “landmark study” at New York City’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003. The study followed 469 seniors (between 75-85 years old) for five years doing a number of cognitive and physical activities. Among the physical activities, dancing was the only one that was associated with a lower risk of dementia.

You can read more about that study here.

So, dancing gives you a great workout with lots of physical benefits, boosts your mood, improves your cognitive function, and helps prevent dementia — not to mention that it also helps you celebrate yourself. What’s not to love?!

Bad day? Feeling insecure or uncertain? Need a pick-me-up? Sesame Street offers the perfect cure to what ails ya: Dance!

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