Everybody knows how important an active lifestyle is for the wellness, strength, and resilience of our bodies. What about the impact of exercise on our brains, though? Can physical movement enhance mental health and cognitive performance? What’s a good alternative if you don’t particularly like going to the gym? In this month’s installment of The Productivity Box, we’ll make the case for dancing.
The mind-body connection
As a recent study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health points out, office workers who are sedentary less than 75 percent of the time report higher productivity than workers who are sedentary more than 90 percent of the time.
Another study found that employees who feel motivated to exercise—and enjoy doing it—are much more likely to reap the benefits of increased well-being, low-stress levels, positive emotions, and satisfaction in their work. All these can help fuel a stronger work performance.
So if you don’t love being in the gym or traditional fitness, what about dancing? This full-body workout will not only improve muscle tone, strength, and endurance—it will increase your cognitive stamina too. Let’s find out more.
Dancing benefits cognitive function and performance
It’s easy to understand why dancing has the potential to spicy up your normal routine and infuse some fun into the work day. What’s better, it can also invigorate and equip you to achieve your goals.
That’s because its rhythmic, flowing movements help activate mind-body muscle coordination. In response, your brain’s neural pathways will stimulate many of your body’s executive functions, reports Frontiers in Human Neuroscience:
- Creative thinking
- Focus and attention
- Cognitive flexibility
- Mood enhancement
- Working memory
- Emotional regulation
- Intrinsic motivation
- Agile, quick learning
- Prosocial behavior
- Stress management
When you carve out time to strengthen the body, sharpen the brain, and have fun in the process, you’re bound to notice a positive shift in your work:
- The burst of activity will refresh peak energy levels.
- The expressive artistry of dance will fuel creative ideation.
- The focus on balance, motor coordination, and complex movements will reinforce deep concentration and quick learning.
- The release of endorphins will also lift your mood, lower stress, and nourish pure enjoyment.
As a result, you’ll perform better—it’s that simple.
Incorporate dancing into your work routine
Let’s see now how we can incorporate this exercise into our work routine. Stretch those legs and turn on your favorite dance music because here are a few tips for maximizing both the physical and mental benefits of dancing to elevate your work performance.
Dance for a minimum of 30 minutes daily at a moderate or vigorous intensity.
A person who weighs about 155 pounds (70 kg) can burn 198 calories in 30 minutes of moderate-pace dancing or 216 calories in 30 minutes of fast-paced dancing, Harvard Health reports.
Remember that you don’t have to dance for a half hour straight at one time. You can spread those dance breaks out over course of a workday. But to fully experience the cardio and cognitive impacts, aim for at least 30 minutes of movement.
Select a music playlist that brings you pleasure and makes you want to groove.
As a recent study in the Brain, Behavior and Immunity Health Journal reveals, listening to music you love creates a sense of mental well-being and resilience. It also stimulates the release of endorphins and dopamine, two neurotransmitters known for activating the brain’s pleasure center and optimizing intrinsic motivation.
Crank a playlist with an energetic beat that’s sure to put you in a dancing mood.
Combine spontaneous, free-flowing moves with precise, methodical moves.
There are clear benefits to both forms of dancing, so work each of them into your practice. Free-flowing dance promotes body awareness, mindful presence, and self-expression, according to a research from UCLA Health. Since your movements aren’t planned—but rather, fluid, instinctive, and spontaneous, free-flowing dance is all about creativity, which can also put you in the zone of intense, sustained focus.
By contrast, more precise dance sequencing can increase your processing speed, working memory, and problem-solving, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience points out. You don’t have to choreograph a whole dance routine, but instead, learn to coordinate your movements to the rhythm of the music to strengthen the brain’s executive functions.
Dance your way into a more productive workflow
If you’re looking for exercise to boost physical fitness, mental health, and job performance, dancing has you covered.
Whether you work from home or in an office, turn just about any space into your own makeshift dance floor and switch on your favorite music.
In my experience, this is one of the most enjoyable strategies for mind-body wellness, in every area of your life, on the job included. Follow me for more productivity hacks each month 😉