HEALTH AND RESEARCH

Get up and dance! It may slow down aging of your brain

From the young to the old, dancing should be enjoyed by all age groups.

In Summary

•As we grow older we suffer a decline in mental and physical fitness, which can be made worse by conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

•From the young to the old, dancing should be enjoyed by all age groups.

As Kenyans embrace TikTok technology, the rise in audiences dancing as a career has also shot up.

Everybody can indeed dance, it’s a matter of moving your body, but when it comes to learning a dance that is where everything narrows down to training.

From the young to the old, dancing should be enjoyed by all age groups.

As we grow older we suffer a decline in mental and physical fitness, which can be made worse by conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.

"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, based in the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases.

"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 led to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance."

Although the likelihood of developing dementia increases with age, it is not a normal part of ageing.
Although the likelihood of developing dementia increases with age, it is not a normal part of ageing.
Image: Pixabay

Elderly volunteers with an average age of 68, were recruited to the study and assigned either an 18-month weekly course of learning dance routines or endurance and flexibility training.

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

This is important because this area can be prone to age-related decline and is affected by diseases like Alzheimer's. It also plays a key role in memory and learning, as well as keeping one's balance.

"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,” Dr. Rehfeld said.

“The most challenging aspect for them was to recall the routines under the pressure of time and without any cues from the instructor."

Results

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

"Right now, we are evaluating a new system called "Jymmin" (jamming and gymnastic). This is a sensor-based system that generates sounds (melodies, rhythm) based on physical activity. We know that dementia patients react strongly when listening to music. We want to combine the promising aspects of physical activity and music-making making in a feasibility study with dementia patients."

"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."

So, get up and dance to your favorite beat!