Does dancing reverse the aging process in the brain?

Previous studies have shown that physical exercise can tackle diseases associated with old age, however, a recent study that compares different fitness routines shows that out of countless physical exercises, only dancing exhibits a substantial difference in behavior.

It is a known fact that physical exercise has an anti-aging effect on the hippocampus region of the brain.

The hippocampus region of the brain is responsible for learning and emotions, along with the formation of new memories. 

A new study undertaken by elderly volunteers for eighteen months compares the different form of exercise to test the anti-aging effect of them on the brain.

As time takes its toll, our body is prone to a number of aging-associated medical conditions, such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, to name a few. 

A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely engage in physical exercise manifest reverse signs of aging in the brain, with dancing being the exercise that has the most significant effect.

This difference is said to exist due to the extra challenge of learning dancing routines.

old people dance routines

As said by Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany. “Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting the age-related decline in mental and physical capacity,”.

In the study, shown are 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.

The study focused on elderly volunteers, all of whom had crossed their mid-60’s. They were divided into two groups. One group was assigned an eighteen-month weekly course of learning dance routines and another group was assigned an endurance and flexibility training.

Both groups showed an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain.

Effects of dancing in brain

This adds as a crucial piece of information to the study as this area is susceptible to age-related decline and is affected by diseases like Alzheimer’s.

While previous research has shown that physical exercise can fight age-related brain decline, it is unknown if one type of exercise can be better than another.

To analyze this, the traditional fitness training program conducted mainly repetitive exercises, such as cycling or Nordic walking, but the dance group was challenged with something new each week.

physical exercise for older people

Dr Rehfeld explains ”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.”

These extra challenges are thought to account for the notable difference in balance displayed by the participants in the dancing group.

Dr. Rehfeld, along with her colleagues is working further on this research to execute new fitness programs that have the potential of maximizing anti-aging effects on the brain.

Her team is evaluating a new system called “Jymmin”, which a combination of two words “Jamming” and “Gymnastic”. This is a sensor-based system which produces melodies based on physical activity.

It is said that dementia patients react strongly to music, so her team is striving to make a feasibility study with dementia patients by combining the promising aspects of physical activity and active music making.

 old lady dancing to music

Dr. Rehfeld believes that everybody would like to live a long, independent and healthy life. In order to manifest one, we should engage in physical activity as much as possible.

She believes that dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for the body and mind, especially in older age

Dancing has always been considered a fun activity. The instant gratification it provides has all of us tapping to our favorite beats. Now we know that it isn’t just fun but also provides numerous health benefits.

We can all follow Dr. Rehfeld’s advice and add dancing to our routines to prevent health risks that make an unannounced visit to old-age. After all, it is better to start young than start in haste when your body is acting against you. 

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