Dance to avoid dementia, surf to combat PTSD: Why you should always try new sports

Jeroen van Duijn

A big part of the reason you train with us is to make your life easier: So you’re fit and healthy for life, and so you can do things like hike, ski and climb stairs without issue.  And hopefully the fitness you get with us also helps build your confidence to play new sports!

Sometimes, though, people in our community get so into the gym—which we love —that the gym becomes their only “sport” (You know who you are). Yes, we want you here and committed, but we also want you out there experiencing life, fun, adventure, and new sports.

In case that’s not a big enough sell, here are five great new ssportsoptions you may not have considered before. It goes without saying they’ll challenge your body and brain, but science says they also have unique health benefits to them:


1. Dance to avoid dementia

Did you know that on top of helping reduce stress and increase serotonin levels, dancing might even combat against memory loss? Science says dancing can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, as it increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

The theory is this: When it comes to intelligence, you gotta use it or you’ll lose it. And a lot of intelligence coms down to decision-making. When you dance—especially when you learn a choreographed dance—you’ll find yourself making split-second, rapid-fire decisions, all the while trying to take in and retain all the new information that’s coming your way. This is especially true when you’re first learning something new, such as a dance, as it’s not second nature so your brain needs to be firing on all cylinders.

Don’t believe me? A 21-year-old study of senior citizens aged 75 and older, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded dancing might help reduce dementia by 76%.


2. Bike to become smarter

According to one study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, those who cycle perform better on memory and reasoning tests, while other research has found that biking helps children with ADHD function better.


3. Swim to reduce joint pain

While not everyone is a swimmer, if you have arthritis or chronic pain, especially back pain, it might be worth making a weekly trip to the pool. Swimming can help relieve joint stiffness, and some studies say it also increases flexibility (Take one look at high-levelswimmer’s shoulder strength and mobility, and this one is easy to believe).

A 2009 Turkish study discovered that working out in the water helps relieve back pain more effectively than training out of the water. Meanwhile, a 2006 Swedish study suggested swimming helps pregnant women experience less back pain.


4. Surf to conquer your PTSD

While it might just seem like common sense that being outdoors in the ocean waves would be good for the mind and soul, science says surfing as therapy goes beyond just common sense. It has gained traction around the world recently and is used to help soldiers cope with their PTSD in both the United States and UK.

OneWave, a non-profit, thinks surfing does even more than this: OneWave uses saltwater therapy to help people recover from various mental health ailments.


5. Join a team sports to reduce social anxiety and increase happiness

Be it softball, basketball or beach volleyball, playing team sports have often been linked to reduced social anxiety and increased happiness.

One study published in 2010 examined the topic and discovered women who participated in club sports—tennis and netball in the study—enjoyed better mental health and life satisfaction than other active women who workout alone (Also part of the reason we offer group classes—for community-building purposes).

Whether you take dance lessons this summer, join a beach volleyball team, try surfing for the first time or pick up swimming, the important thing is to get out of the gym from time to time to utilize your newfound fitness. You body, your brain, and your overall health will thank you.

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