Can the Lambada lift your libido?
Can the Macarena mitigate the madness?
Can the boogaloo belay the blues?
Apparently, there is some truth to this.
As we age, a number of brain changes occur, including a decrease in brain tissue, a reduction in blood flow, and a decline in communication between brain cells which can interfere with cognitive functioning, especially learning and memory. It has long been known that physical exercise has an anti-aging effect on the hippocampus region of the brain — an area that controls memory, learning and balance. A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.
“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,” says Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, in Magdeburg, Germany. “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.”
“We tried to provide our seniors in the dance group with constantly changing dance routines of different genres (Jazz, Square, Latin-American and Line Dance). Steps, arm-patterns, formations, speed and rhythms were changed every second week to keep them in a constant learning process. The most challenging aspect for them was to recall the routines under the pressure of time and without any cues from the instructor.”
It might be these extra challenges that account for the noticeable difference in balance displayed by the participants in dancing group. Dr Rehfeld and her colleagues are building on this research to trial new fitness programs. “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.”
Dr Rehfeld notes that, “I believe that everybody would like to live an independent and healthy life, for as long as possible. Physical activity is one of the lifestyle factors that can contribute to this, counteracting several risk factors and slowing down age-related decline. I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age.”
So, put on your dancing shoes and get ready to twist and shout. It’s for your good health.
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