With aging comes the decline of mental and physical abilities, and many believe aging and its side effects are an inevitable part of life. However, it does not have to be. Studies have shown that regular physical exercise could help improve not only physical aspects but cognitive functions as well. In all ages, exercise has been shown to promote healthy mind and body, and that is especially true when it comes to the aging population.
Studies suggest that regular exercise could slow down, or even counteract the signs of aging including mental and physical decline. It can keep your heart healthy, your muscles strong, and can even keep you looking and feeling younger. Exercise has been known to increase bone density, maintain muscle and strength, aid in lean body composition, and of course, leads to better cognitive function.
In a more recent study, researchers found that dancing, in particular, could significantly improve cognitive abilities. This particular study examined two different types of exercise including endurance training and most importantly, dancing. Participants, averaging 68 years old, were assigned an 18-month weekly course where they learned various dance routines or performed endurance and flexibility training such as cycling or Nordic walking. Both activities were shown to increase the area of the brain that declines with age, the hippocampus. Most importantly though, the participants in the dance group showed improved balance, which is crucial for social mobility.
What Makes Dancing Special?
Dancing provides the challenge of remembering complex routines under the stress of time, without any cues from the instructor. It activates sensory and motor circuits while the actual music stimulates the brain’s reward centers. Beyond just the physical aspects, dancing provides social and emotional aspects that benefit the brain. It’s an emotional experience combined with social interactions including eye contact, touch, talking, and music. Most importantly, dancing is applicable to all skill levels, has a low dropout rate, encourages regular participation, and it appeals to most people.
So, put on your dancing shoes, and dance like nobody’s watching: It could ultimately improve your health and brain function. If dancing isn’t your thing, physical exercise, in general, could help improve your cognitive function. Whatever you choose to do, just get out there and get your heart pumping. You’ll be glad you did!