Danc­ing keeps the brain more nim­ble

Pretoria News Weekend - - HEALTH -

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

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