Want to stay young for long? A daily bout of physical exercise, especially dancing, can help reverse the signs of ageing in the brain as well as delay the onset of age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, according to a study.
It is known that physical exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity.
However, the new study demonstrated that dancing has the most profound anti-ageing effect on the brain in the elderly.
It also helps increase balance as well as improve sensorimotor, visual and vestibular information — the three involved sensory systems.
While “physical activity is one of the lifestyle factors that can counteract several risk factors and slowing down age-related decline. I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age”, said lead author Kathrin Rehfeld, from the German centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Germany.
Balancing is an important everyday function, crucial for social mobility. Impaired balance often results in falls, which constitute a major health risk factor with consequences both on morbidity and even mortality) as well as health care costs.
For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the team recruited elderly volunteers, with an average age of 68, who were assigned either an eighteen-month weekly course of learning dance routines or endurance and flexibility training.
The traditional fitness training programme conducted mainly repetitive exercises such as cycling or Nordic walking but the dance group were challenged with different genres such as Jazz, Square, Latin-American and Line Dance.
The results showed that both groups showed an increase in the hippocampus — region of the brain prone to age-related decline and is affected by diseases like Alzheimer’s.
But “it was only dancing that led to noticeable behavioural changes in terms of improved balance”, Rehfeld said.