Dancing, regardless of the type, is an excellent way for people of all ages, sizes, and shapes to stay fit and newest research also suggests that dancing may be among the top three physical activities to maintain optimal brain health and avert damage associated with brain aging.
This physical activity is known to offer a long list of physical and mental health advantages, as explained on Better Health. When you dance on the regular, you will build stronger bones, maintain healthy weight, better your physical confidence and mental functioning, enhance your self-confidence and self-esteem, strengthen your muscles, boost your endurance, keep the lungs and heart healthy, improve your social skills, and believe it or not, according to Medical News Today, reverse the aging signs in the brain.
Taking into consideration that our brains change as we age, along with our mental function, a lot of people particularly fear mental decline (a common result of the aging process), as noted on Harvard Health Publishing. Be that as it may, cognitive decline is not unpreventable and a lot of lifestyle factors do influence it. Some of them are your diet, level of physical activity, mental stimulation, overall health, socialization, etc.
This article will be therefore focused on showing how one particular physical activity, i.e. dancing, can help you avert the negative effects of brain aging.
Why Does the Brain Age?
According to Medical News Today, to some extent, brain aging cannot be avoided; however, it impacts every brain in a different manner and therefore, the rate of cognitive reduction may impact some people more than others. Hence, finding a way to slow it down or maybe even stop it altogether may hold the key to eternal youth.
The human brain, which usually weighs around 3 pounds, is an astonishing engineering with more than 100 billion neurons which are interconnected with trillions of synapses.
As we age, our brain goes through the most changes than other body parts and since the third week of gestation to old age, its functions and structures shift and pathways are connecting and disconnecting. Interestingly, the area of the brain in charge of planning, impulse control, and working memory are among the last parts that mature and in some people, they may not entirely develop until 35 years of age.
More and more evidence supports the claim that those who experience the smallest amount of decline in their memory and cognition share some of the following behaviors:
- Regular physical activity (aerobic and resistance training, as well as dancing)
- Regular intellectually-stimulating activities
- Social activity
- Adequate stress management
- Healthy diet (decreasing the consumption of saturated fats and refined sugar)
- Proper sleep
What Is Dancing?
As explained on Better Health, dancing comes in numerous forms, from disco to ballroom dancing and it has been a vital part of human culture, celebrations, and rituals for ages. Nowadays, dancing is mostly about recreation and self-expression and it is without doubt a pleasurable way to introduce more physical activity to your life and maintain a fit body and apparently, to keep your brain young too!
How to Begin?
First and foremost, it is important to note that it is never too late to begin dancing. You can dance on your own, with a partner, or with a group of people. Nowadays, dancing can be enjoyed in different areas, from dance schools and social venues to dancing at the comfort of your own home. The sooner you start doing it, the more health benefits you will reap, especially when it comes to your brain health.
The Link between Dancing & Brain Aging
According to Medical News Today, different types of changes in the brain happen as we age, including reduction of brain tissue, lower blood flow, and poorer communication between the cells in the brain. These changes affect our cognition, especially our learning and memory capacity.
Taking into consideration that some studies have concluded that physical activity can reduce the decline in the cognitive processes, Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld from the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Germany and her team wanted to find out which type of physical activity is the most potent one in slowing down brain aging.
The Study & Its Findings
The study was done with 52 healthy adults between the ages of 63 and 80 and each of them belonged to one of the two groups. It lasted for 18 months. The first group took 90-minute dancing lessons on a weekly basis whereas the other participants did 90 minutes of strength-endurance workout on a weekly basis. The first group encountered new routines every week whereas the other training was of repetitive nature.
It was found that the two groups had an increase in hippocampal volume, but the one in the dancing group was the highest. But, it was the dancing group only that experienced higher neuronal connections in the part of the hippocampus linked to the formation of memory. As noted on Medical News Today, the hippocampus is a part of the brain which is linked to our memory, emotion, and learning and it is usually affected by age-caused brain changes.
Moreover, dancing was also able to better the balance in the participants while those from the other group experienced no such advantage.
The team asserts that it is maybe the ongoing learning process which is a core part of dancing that is the main “culprit’ for the numerous benefits the dancers reaped.
However, the team concluded that there is a need of additional research to explore the apparent link between brain aging and dancing. But, the team does believe that dancing can do wonders for the overall health, especially for the brain and especially for aging adults due to the new challenges it constantly sets for both the mind and body.