A recent study conducted by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City suggests that the benefits of hoop dancing regularly may be even greater than we thought. In fact, it may even increase our intelligence and ward off Alzheimers and other forms of dementia as we grow older!
These incredible findings were the result of a 21-year study of senior citizens in which their mental age was measured in order to keep track of rates of dementia, including Alzheimers disease. During the study, the recreation activities of each participant were manipulated to see which had a greater significant beneficial effect on combating rates of dementia. It was found that dancing frequently offered a HUGE 76% risk reduction, greater than reading (which reduced risk by 35%), swimming (which reduced risk by 0%) and doing crossword puzzles four days a week (which reduced risk by 47%). So what does this mean? Well, put simply, regular dancing decreases our risk developing dementia while increasing cognitive acuity at any age! Amazing right?
So what is going on in our brains when we are hoop dancing that can spin up such awesome benefits? As we age neurons and synapses in our brain, that send messages to different parts of the brain and the body, weaken and eventually die. This study, however, demonstrates that hoop dancing helps keep our brain cells active, allowing constant rewiring and keeping those pathways of information intact! By hooping regularly we are using the cells that we would otherwise lose. Maintaining these cells is argued by the researchers to be the equivalent of increasing intelligence. Why? Well, they state that the essence of intelligence is the ability to make decisions – “intelligence is what we use when we don’t already know what to do” – and with more pathways being maintained and created each time we spin up something wonderful, when it comes down to making a decision we can do it quicker and better, due to the range of brain functions that dancing involves- kinesthetics, rational, emotional, and musical!
So I know a few of you are probably thinking that any form of dance will do, and that’s not entirely the case. It seems that hoop dance may provide a greater level of benefit because we shake up our routine with different moves and tricks, utilizing different parts of our body in new ways, rather than retracing the same steps and patterns over and over. This means that instead of just re-using the same memorized pathways in the brain, we are creating new ones each time we try a new move or try certain combinations in a different order! If we fully use our intelligence in our hoop dance, paying a highly active form of attention to the possibilities of our movement, then we enter into a flow like state, fully attuned to the here and now of our spin.
It seems that the benefits we thought we knew about our hoop dance may just be the tip of the iceberg! So what more of an excuse do you need to pick up your hoop and go out spinning? The more often we hoop, the better we can utilize our neural pathways later in life when we’ll need them the most!
Columnist Sophie Febrey of Fairy Face Hoops believes the world would be a better place if we all shared the hoopy love! She has been hooping for 2 years, and teaches/performs under the name HoopPixie in the UK. You can also find her on Facebook. She lives in Bristol, UK.