Dancing Keeps Your Brain Young At An Older Age
Dancing, as most of us know, makes us happy. And it’s not just about the body either. It seems that the mind reacts particularly well when grooving to a beat. According to a new study, regular dancing, especially at an older age, reverses the signs of aging in the brain. And as we’ve said before, besides the actual physical exercise, dancing also helps prevent against certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Regular physical exercise was already known to help both the body and mind in reversing the signs of aging. And since older people need this the most, it turns out that regular exercises are a real benefit for them. But what wasn’t known before, however, was what particular exercises do.
For this study, 26 volunteers were chosen, all aged 68. They were all assigned a random 18-month-long routine, either a learning a dance, or endurance and flexibility training. The fitness routines mostly included some repetitive tasks such as cycling or Nordic walking. The dance group, however, was taught a new dance routine every week. There were a lot of genres to choose from such as Line Dancing, Latin-American, Jazz, or Square.
The results of the study had shown that both groups involved in the study had shown signs of an increased volume in the hippocampal parts of the brain. These areas are involved in memory, learning, and balance. And this is the area that is most affected by Alzheimer’s, as well as aging.
“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity. In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance,” said Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study.
It is important to note that this study was small, using only 26 volunteers. It also awaits to be peer reviewed, meaning that other teams of researchers need to replicate the study and see if they get similar results. The study itself also needs to be expanded, probably involving other forms of physical activity.
“Right now, we are evaluating a new system called “Jymmin” (jamming and gymnastic). This is a sensor-based system which generates sounds (melodies, rhythm) based on physical activity. We know that dementia patients react strongly when listening to music. We want to combine the promising aspects of physical activity and active music making in a feasibility study with dementia patients,” said Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld.