Before turning down an offer to get out on the dance floor with someone, read on to find out how dancing benefits the brain.
A study published in the medical journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience aimed to determine what kinds of exercise have the most profound impact on counteracting age-related changes in the human brain.
Researchers recruited senior citizens who had an average age of 68 years old. Each participant was assigned to a curriculum of weekly exercise over an eighteen month period. One group participated in learning a new dance routine each week while the other did repetitive endurance and flexibility training.
Both groups of exercises showed improvements and changes, most notably an enlargement of the hippocampus, a brain structure associated with memory, learning and balance. The hippocampus is largely affected by dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers noted that they not only saw hippocampus growth in the group of dancers, but “noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance”.
Researchers are chalking up the hippocampus growth and improved balance in the dancing group to the extra challenges the curriculum brought. Participants were challenged week after week with a new style of dance, steps, rhythms, and had a certain amount of time to learn it all.
An important element of this study is of course that music, which goes hand-in-hand with dancing, has a myriad of benefits for persons with dementia. The power of music plus the knowledge of how beneficial we now know dancing can be is opens up a world of colorful, non-pharmaceutical and qualitative activities for persons with dementia.
At Dolan Memory Care Homes, we recognize how dance and movement is vital which is why we implement instructed ballet and chair dancing classes along with spontaneous dance parties!