One of the best ways to combat brain aging is dancing. You heard that right: In addition to being a great way to get some physical exercise, it also has its benefits for your mind. It’s an interesting, fun way to keep your brain sharp and flexible.
Age doesn’t matter here either. In fact, dancing is one of the best ways for the elderly to maintain an optimal balance between body and mind. In addition, physical activity in general — but especially dancing — can partially reverse the signs of brain aging later in life.
Physical activity against brain aging
As you get older, your brain will change. The brain tissue will shrink, the blood supply will decrease and eventually there will be less communication between brain cells. All of these changes can get in the way of your cognitive abilities, especially with regard to your learning and memory.
Most studies suggest that exercise during a person’s adult years can counteract cognitive decline. A study in the same category — published in the journal Neurology — demonstrated a direct link between moderate and intense exercise and a slower decline in memory functions and mental abilities. This result applies to people over 50 years old.
However, regular vigorous exercise is not suitable for everyone. Especially when it concerns people over 50 years of age. The good news, however, is that there are quick ways to get the necessary amount of exercise. You don’t have to go to a gym for that. So without putting on sports shoes you can still fight against brain aging. By dancing! At least, that’s what a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience suggests .
The effect of dancing on the hippocampus
The study we just mentioned involved a group of 52 healthy adults between the ages of 63 and 80. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of two possible groups. He or she continued to be a part of this for the following 18 months. One group took part in a weekly 90-minute dance lesson during this period. The other group did strength and resistance training for 90 minutes each week.
We would like to point out some other differences between the groups. The dance group learned new routines while the strength and resistance training performed the same activities each week.
So the dance troupe was constantly dealing with changes in their routines. Every two weeks she changed dance steps, arm positioning, formations, speed and rhythm. In this way the dancers continuously experienced learning.
At the beginning and at the end of the 18-month study, everyone’s brains were MRI scans. A sensory organization test
The researchers found that the hippocampi had grown in participants from both groups. However, the increase in size was greater in the dance group. Only the people of the dance group demonstrated an increase in the neuronal connections in the trisynaptic circuit of the hippocampus. This part of the brain is associated with learning, memory and emotions. It is also the part of the brain that deteriorates the most as we age.
Dancing is a great exercise for the elderly
According to the theory on which the researchers based their hypotheses and study, the benefits for the hippocampus could be explained by the continuous learning process experienced by the older dancers. In fact, they found that dancing also resulted in improved body balance. The group that did strength and resistance training did not achieve these results.
The researchers also saw improvements in specific areas of the hippocampus of the group who participated in the dance training for 18 months. Again, the other group did not show these results. So this could mean that in addition to the fact that dancing is good for physical fitness, there are other factors that contribute to changes in the size of this part of the brain.
That is why they claim that the added challenge of the dance program is in particular on the cognitive and sensorimotor level. And this on top of the improvements in physical performance!
The scientists also showed that physical activity is one of the most important factors related to lifestyle. This can help you stay healthy and independent for as long as possible. This is because it obviously keeps many risk factors at bay and slows down the aging process. Dancing can therefore be a powerful tool to give your body and mind new challenges. Especially in your old age!