As children, people are often encouraged to pick up hobbies related to physical fitness in order to maintain their health and stay active. As people age, sometimes involvement in sports and physical activities wears off. Dancing is an activity that many partake in, whether it be on the professional stage or in the comforts of the home. For many, dancing brings much joy, and studies have shown that dancing can also reduce anxiety.
There have also been studies indicating that physical activity, particularly dancing, can help improve aging-related brain health in people with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s afflicts millions and affects the nervous system, causing loss of movement. While there is no known cure for Parkinson’s, dance therapy can help by improving mobility.
Image source: Copyright Christopher Peddecord 2009
Dance has also proven to be beneficial for health by reversing signs of aging related to Alzheimer’s disease, which causes memory loss and damage to brain tissue. Recently, a study conducted by Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases looked at which kind of physical activity is most beneficial in terms of age-related mental health issues.
The researchers took two groups of people above the age of 68 and had them partake in either dancing or activities involving flexibility and endurance. The endurance and flexibility group performed repetitive activities whereas the dancing group performed new dance routines each week. This created a challenge for those in the dancing group because they had to continually remember and learn new steps. The study found that the dancing group had an improvement in balance compared to the endurance and flexibility group. This constant working of the mind to retain dance steps is responsible for increasing the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that plays a role in memory, learning, and balance. The hippocampus is also affected by Alzheimer’s and deteriorates as aging proceeds.
As we grow older, it may get harder to fit physical activity into our schedules, but this study by Rehfeld has shown that we can dance our way into a healthier and more active future.
Feature Image Source: Dancing elderly couple by Dennis van Zuijlekom