Dancing keeps the brain more nimble
PENSIONERS who learn to line dance, take up jazz or square dancing are better protected from memory loss and dementia than those who walk or cycle, a study has shown.
Dancing can help fight off the loss of brainpower as we age and brain scans show that it works better over a period of 18 months than spells of cycling or Nordic walking.
German researchers tested the different forms of exercise on 62 people with an average age of 68, measuring the size of the memory centre in their brains.
The traditional exercise group did repetitive activities in 90-minute sessions, while the dance group had a lot more steps and choreography to learn.
It is thought the effort required to learn their steps helped those in the dance group to lose less of the brain volume which is thought to cause memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease.
Nordic walking usually involves using sticks similar to ski poles on long-distance routes.
The study’s lead author, Dr Kathrin Rehfeld from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases, said: “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.”
After the age of 70, we lose 1% volume in the region of the brain which controls memory every year. This can lead to forgetfulness, navigation problems and potentially dementia.
However, the brain’s memory centre, the hippocampus, is one of the few parts which can regenerate and prevent such a decline. Dr Louise Walker, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said:“This study does not show that dancing can prevent dementia but... it shows that physical activity is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of the condition.”
– Daily Mail