As we get older, we all have to address the very real issue of cognitive decline – or the slowing down of our brains. Thankfully, there are a few things we can do to “exercise” our brains as we age so as to avoid cognitive decline.
A new study published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience concludes that staying active through the act of dancing helps to slow cognitive decline in seniors significantly. The physical movement of dance along with the need for our brains to process the many dance moves proves to “exercise” the areas of our brains that control balance and are most affected by Alzheimer’s.
“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity,” says Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study out of the 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.”
In the study, researchers observed two groups of seniors over the age of 68. One group engaged in a variety of dance while the other engaged in endurance training, like cycling and Nordic walking. The group that participated in dancing exhibited a better display of balance than did the group that engaged in endurance training.
Dr. Rehfeld is encouraged by the findings and is continuing in her research. In the meantime, she invites seniors of all ages to get up out of our seats and dance:
“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.”
Movement is always great for our bodies. It helps our joints to stay flexible and functional. Combine this with the benefits of dance related to staving off cognitive decline, and we can all score a 10!
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