A new study demonstrated that elderly people who routinely take part in physical exercise, particularly dancing could actually reverse the signs of aging in the brain.
Physical exercise is an effective anti-aging tool for the brain, the challenge of learning dance or dancing to favourite beats on a regular basis is especially helpful in combating cognitive decline.
“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity,” said Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study based at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Magdeburg, Germany.
“In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.”
Volunteers (aged 68) were recruited for the study and were included in the 18-month weekly course of dancing and endurance training. Although both activities resulted in an enhanced mental state, dancing had a more “impactful” response.
Volunteers in both tests showed an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain. This is important because this brain region is prone to age-related decline and can be affected by diseases like Alzheimer’s.
The hippocampus also plays a key role in memory and learning, as well as keeping one’s balance.
The study also showed that as compared to exercising, dancing resulted in improved balance and noticeable changes in behavior.
“Right now, we are evaluating a new system called “Jymmin” (jamming and gymnastic). This is a sensor-based system which generates sounds (melodies, rhythm) based on physical activity. We know that dementia patients react strongly when listening to music,” said Rehfeld.
“We want to combine the promising aspects of physical activity and active music making in a feasibility study with dementia patients.”
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.