Can Zumba make you happier?
As you might suspect, I’m a huge fan of the physical benefits of Zumba. Exercising and keeping fit is one of the main things we can do to look after our physical health and wellbeing. But what about our mental health? Can Zumba have positive effects on that, too? Well, it turns out that yes, it can.
Zumba requires a fair amount of coordination, and learning ‘in the moment’. Even if you think you don’t have much coordination, trust me, after just a few classes you’ll be picking up the basics. And it’s this type of exercise that not only helps train our muscles, it helps to train our brains, too.
Zumba improves our reflexes and tests our memory – so at the same time as having immense amounts of fun, you’re also toning up, losing weight and strengthening all those little synapses in the brain that help us retain information.
The brain stays strong and healthy just like any muscle in the body – by training it and pushing its boundaries.
We know that exercise helps to eliminate stress hormones such as cortisol. But some of us prefer to join in something fun, rather than a solo, often intimidating, session at the gym, or a lonely run. A Zumba class is a sociable place, full of like-minded people and exercising in such a fun atmosphere with such upbeat music is a sure-fire way of combatting stress. And what’s more, this amazing study published in the well-respected journal, Frontiers in Psychology, in 2014 found that “moving in time with others may result in us feeling better about ourselves compared to moving to our own rhythm”. And there’s nothing like a Zumba class for social interactions, moving in sync and boosting mood!
And that’s not all. There’s numerous online accounts of how Zumba has helped people battling with depression, with one Huffington Post article describing the euphoria felt after a Zumba class.
Zumba is non-judgemental, mood boosting, addictive and euphoric. But it doesn’t end there. It builds confidence too, the benefits of which extend far further than the Zumba hall. It encourages feelings of inhibition and self-consciousness to fade, and overcoming these energy-zapping, mood lowering feelings can have dramatic effects on your mental health and overall wellbeing.
Amazingly, Zumba can also help people with dementia too. I recently found a beautiful article about gentle Zumba being taught in a care home in Michigan in the US. This kind of class is held all over the world and the teacher in Michigan takes real delight from the smiles from the residents during her classes. She says that repetitive moves to the same music is perfect for people with memory issues, the brain having the same ‘muscle memory’ as the rest of our muscles. And a study in Denmark found that elderly people regularly exercising improved their mental speed and attention, and suffered less anxiety, irritability and depression.
I think it’s fabulous that science is backing up what anyone who’s ever taken part in a Zumba class already knows. That it feels good. And in my book, that’s all I can ask for!