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Dance classes pay off

DancerlargeTurns out, everyone should have taken ballet—or tap, or jazz.

Professional dancers’ years of training allow their nervous systems to coordinate their muscles more precisely than people with no dance training, found a study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, whether they are performing or just walking across a room.

A research team at Emory and Georgia Tech compared the movements of professional ballet dancers with 10 or more years of training to those of people with no dance or gymnastics training.

Gait and activity of muscles in the legs and torso were tracked as the subjects walked across the floor, a wide beam, and a narrow beam.

An individual’s nervous system initiates movement by activating muscles in "motor module" groups that, combined, cover a wide range of motion. Trained ballet dancers engaged more motor modules more consistently than untrained subjects, using their muscles more effectively and efficiently.  

"This helps us understand how long-term training in an activity such as dance affects how we do everyday tasks," says study author Lena Ting, professor of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory and of rehabilitation medicine at Emory.

"We found that years of ballet training change how the nervous system coordinates muscles for walking and balancing behaviors overall. This may also have implications for how training through rehabilitation helps people with impaired mobility." 

Related Links

"Study finds ballet training may improve balance and coordination in daily activities" (11/2/2015)

"Taking an interdisciplinary approach to exploring motor function" (7/23/2015)

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