As if we needed another reason to dance…

As you age, there are changes that begin to take place throughout the body, affecting you both physically and mentally. As the brain ages, many people suffer a noticeable decline in cognitive function, while others seem to somehow “stay young”.

Physical activity has been proven to play a part in “slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity”, according to Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of a recent study [] in Magdeburg, Germany at the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases.

The study was performed over 18 months and demonstrated two forms of physical activity, endurance training and dancing. Both forms of activity showed an increase in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that typically decreases with age. Dancing had the added benefit of also producing noticeable changes in balance.

The fitness group performed repetitive training exercises, like cycling and Nordic walking. The dance group was given new challenges every other week, learning new dances, steps and patterns. It’s believed the constantly changing learning process is what caused noticeable balance changes in the dance group.

It’s already known that dementia patients react strongly while listening to music. The hope remains that by combining the proven benefits of physical activity and music, such as what you experience when you dance, the effects of dementia can be diminished, or maybe even counteracted completely.

The hippocampus area is important because of the key role it plays in learning, memory and keeping your balance. The hippocampus is prone to age-related decline and also greatly affected by Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Rehfeld adds her advice following the outcome of the experiment: “I believe 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…I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age.”

See there? The doctor’s prescription to extend your life and diminish age-related brain decline…DANCE!