Physical exercise benefits the body in many ways. You probably don’t need anyone else telling you that. But did you know that dancing benefits your brain more than other exercise? A new study actually showed that dancing is more effective at reversing signs of aging in the brain than other forms of exercise. Another bonus is that it improves your balance.
Dancing constitutes a promising candidate in counteracting the age-related decline in physical and mental abilities. ~ Kathrin Rehfeld et al., Dancing or Fitness Sport? The Effects of Two Training Programs on Hippocampal Plasticity and Balance Abilities in Healthy Seniors, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Dancing vs. Fitness
A study out of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Magdeburg discovered that dancing improves brain volume in more regions of the brain than other fitness exercises. Furthermore, it showed that dancing helps improve balance, more so than fitness training.
The study evaluated two groups for a total of 26 participants. The first was the dancing group, made up of 14 individuals with an average age of 67. The second group was the fitness group of 12 people with an average age of 69.
The study spanned 18 months, during which the dancing group learned dance routines during weekly classes. Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, who led the study, explains the challenges set for the dancing group:
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. The most challenging aspect for them was to recall the routines under the pressure of time and without any cues from the instructor.
On the other hand, the fitness group only focused on endurance and flexibility training during this term. In the end, the study had some fascinating results.
Dancing Benefits on the Brain
First, both the dancing group and the fitness group has volume improvements in the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and balance. It is also the part of the brain related to diseases like Alzheimer’s.
What’s interesting is that the dancing group also saw an improvement in balance. Moreover, researchers discovered that dancing benefits two other parts of the brain that communicate directly with the hippocampus and are involved in spatial relations. This may be the reason why only the dancing group saw a significant increase in their balance composite score.
Dr. Rehfeld concluded:
I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age.
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