February is always a busy month for me. There's Valentine's Day and then two days later, my wife's birthday. Of course, both of those dates are very important and I can never forget them (I better not or I'm in trouble).
February is also time for celebrating the cold ocean water at Rehoboth Beach. This was my 12th year participating in the Polar Bear Plunge that benefits Special Olympics Delaware. It's an annual fundraiser I participate in every year.
I'm also helping out with another charity fundraiser in February. The Laurel Community Foundation is organizing a Hearts for Hope benefit dance event on Saturday, Feb. 28 at the Laurel Fire Hall to benefit the Hope House in Laurel.
My wife and I will be one of several couples competing in the dance competition. We used to dance a lot but then we had kids and our focus in life changed. I remember those dancing days though. What a great workout. It's great for the body and I just found research to show it's also great for the brain.
Can you believe that dancing also makes us smarter? A study in the New England Journal of Medicine added to the growing evidence that stimulating our mind by dancing can help to ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia. Dancing can help to increase your connectivity in your brain by combining several functions at once. When you dance you use your kinesthetic (sense of movement), rational, musical and emotional brain functions.
All dancing is good for the body and mind because it helps to lower our stress, provides endurance exercise and helps us to feel connected socially to others. With most dances though, we follow the same memorized path like swaying side to side slow dancing or just moving our hips fast dancing. This type of dancing does not require a lot of split-second decision making. It's easy on the brain. Freestyle social dancing does require split-second decisions and it challenges the brain. Freestyle social dances like the basic foxtrot, waltz, swing, rumba and cha-cha engage the brain. One person is leading and the partner has to follow many various foot patterns along with twists and spins and turns. My brain is being challenged right now just thinking about it.
My wife and I had the opportunity to take dance lessons 15 years ago at Del Tech in Georgetown. We did what a lot of couples do before the wedding day. Learn how to actually dance. I refer to it now as our premarital counseling sessions because it exhausted us. Not so much physically, but mentally. We learned the foxtrot, waltz, cha-cha, rumba and swing dances. I got "the look" many times from my then fiancé because I was not leading the dance properly. Apparently, I wasn't that good at making the split-second decisions on where to move next. Eventually I learned and as a reward, I was able to marry her.
Now I have to dust off my brain and remember how to make split-second dance decisions again for the Hope House benefit. I'll do my best knowing that I'm not only helping a local charity, I'm also helping my brain. Give dancing a try and make your brain smarter.
About the author: Jonathan Souder is the fitness director at Manor House, an ACTS Retirement-Life Community in Seaford. Email your thoughts to email@example.com.