Dancing = Brain Workout
A new study published last week discusses how dancing affects the brain, and how it could help reverse certain signs of aging in the brain.1 Dancing is an activity which involves coordinated movements whereby the brain determines a rhythm through noise input. It’s actually quite a brain workout. It also contributes to relaxation and a general sense of well being, things thought to be involved in keeping the brain healthy. It’s also a means of getting physical exercise, which can be a contributing factor to degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The Study on Dancing
It hasn’t been known if different types of physical exercise affect brain activity in significantly different ways. For this reason, a team of researchers decided to look at 2 groups of elderly individuals, one undergoing an endurance training program, and the other a dance program. The dance program involved rotating lessons on different dance steps for 18-months. The endurance program was a traditional elderly work-out consisting of repetitive exercises like Nordic track or treadmill.
Balance and the Lord of the Dance
Regions in the brain of both groups showed increased memory capacity, and better brain health in regions associated with Alzheimer’s disease . However, in the dancing group alone, better physical balance was noted. It was thought that the having to remember the different dance steps, from many different ones learned, while simultaneously performing the activity of dancing, helped increase the balance.
Pick up Those Feet and 2-Step Your Way into an Alternative Form of Exercise
Dancing could be a low risk, enjoyable exercise alternative to many individuals who are not interested, or unable to participate in traditional forms of exercise. Because dancing incorporates music and movement, and is often stress relieving, and emotionally uplifting, it is likely that dancing is beneficial to other aspects of mental health as well, such as depression, loneliness, and anxiety, all things that wear on the brain and cause us to age less gracefully.
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Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.