Cognitive Benefits of Creative Dance for Athletes

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Strength, speed, power, agility, and flexibility are just some of the things a good athlete usually does to perform at a high level. You could say creative dance requires most of the same things, though that activity requires a different mental approach. Overall, it's not out of bounds for a rough, tough athlete to find a creative edge by taking dance seriously.

Benefits of Dance

In 2003, PubMed published a study that looked at the effects of dance training on a group of cross-country skiers. It concluded dance training had a “positive effect on speed and agility and on joint mobility…” Such studies indicate an athlete could improve his performance through the art, which was supported in the 2008 book "Creative Dance for Learning: The Kinesthetic Link" by Mary Ann Brehm and Lynne McNett. The authors concluded creative dance, or kinesthetic dance, can play up critical thinking skills and increase physical awareness.

On Pointe

If ballet falls under creative dancing, some football players have shown it can work for them. Back in his playing days, Herschel Walker took part in a performance of the Fort Worth ballet and went on to make dance part of his workout routine. High school coaches have had entire teams take classes as a way to enhance their flexibility and focus.

Why it Can Work

A creative dance exercise may prove beneficial for athletes since it can improve body awareness through imagery and visualization. It also develops efficiency in movement and recruitment of the correct muscle as the right time, reducing fatigue. The challenges of coordinating the body and brain in a dance can carry over to the field, where the athlete has to constantly employ critical thinking. “It (dance) engages cognitive and physical processes," says Emily S. Cross, a former dancer and neurobiologist.

Not for Everyone

Despite the possible benefits, it's still tough as of 2014 to convince some athletes dancing outside of a club, or after a big play, is of any value. Monika Scloder, a professional sports coach, said “…dance training as an alternative involvement usually elicits some traditional myths, certain social bias, or produces emotional reactions from people." In other words, most athletes are reluctant to give it a try.