Dancing For Brain Health

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Please check out my original post at:

http://xactmind.com/xc/articles/dancing-for-brain-health/

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

Perhaps you have always had two left feet when it came to dancing, and have considered taking a dance class to improve physical coordination and rhythm. However, the benefits of dancing extend far beyond the physical benefits. The health benefits of dancing include stress reduction and an increase in serotonin levels, which gives us a sense of well-being. Another extraordinary benefit of engaging in regular dancing is that it helps to prevent the cognitive decline which is associated with aging and Alzheimer’s disease, and it increases cognitive acuity in people of all ages.

New Neural Pathways

The process of dance, especially forms such as ballroom dancing which require cooperation between two partners, involves lightning fast decision making, which forms new neural pathways. However, only the types of dancing which force the dancer to improvise while on the dance floor will cause these neural connections to form. A monumental 21-year study which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that the participants who showed the most resistance to dementia were involved in freestyle social dancing such as ballroom dancing, tango, salsa, waltz, and swing. The cognitive benefits were more significant in participants who danced regularly versus those who only danced occasionally, and those who changed dance partners also benefitted more, since they had to adjust to new partners and make more split-second decisions.

Protection Against Dementia

How significant were the benefits of dancing in this study? Seniors who danced several times each week had a 75% lower risk of dementia versus people who did not dance at all. The cognitive benefits of dance far exceeded the benefits seen with subjects who participated in other activities such as reading books, doing crossword puzzles, playing musical instruments, tennis, golf, bicycling, walking and swimming. In fact, the only physical activity which protected subjects against dementia was frequent dancing.

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