With age, comes a steady downfall in our mental and physical health and often conditions like Alzheimer’s make it even worse. The open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neurosciencepublished a new paper that says that taking part in regular exercise and similar physical activity can reduce and even reverse the signs of aging and out of all these activities, dancing is said to have the most effect.

Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, also the main writer of the study says,“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity.”

She also says, “In this study, we show 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.”

Some older people, within the age range of 60 to 70, were recruited as volunteers and were given either a weekly course of learning dance routines for eighteen months or physical exercise that involved flexibility or endurance training.

The hippocampus of the brain that is often affected by old age and other diseases that come with the old age, showed an increase. The hippocampus region is also important in terms of maintaining memory and learning and is important for keeping balance.

Existing research shows that exercise can counterpoise health problems that come with old age but it has not been clear as to which form of physical exertion has better effects if, in fact, a certain type has more effect. This particular study was undertaken to judge this and is also the reason why entirely different kinds of exercises were given to the volunteers.

The group that was assigned the dance routines were given something new every week but the group with the conventional set of exercises stuck to one particular type that generally included walking, jogging and other exercises of the like.

Dr. Rehfeld says, “We tried to provide our seniors in the dance group with constantly changing dance routines of different genres (Jazz, Square, Latin- American and Line Dance). Steps, arm patterns, formations, speed, and rhythms were changed every second week to keep them in a constant learning process. The most challenging aspect for them was to recall the routines under pressure of time and without any cues from the instructor.”

These challenges that come with a higher difficulty level have been thought to be the reason for the difference in growth between the groups. Dr. Rehfeld and her team are working on this information to come up with different exercise programs that would be the most effective in the anti aging bid.

Dr. Rehfeld says further that, “Right now, we are evaluating a new system called “Jymmin” (jamming and gymnastic). This is a sensor based system that generates sounds (melodies, rhythm) based on physical activity. We know that dementia patients react strongly when listening to music. We want to combine the promising aspects of physical activity and active music making a feasibility study with dementia patients.”

In the end, Dr. Rehfeld advises us all to indulge in moving to our favorite rhythms and not waste away in our seats.

“I believe that everybody would like to live an independent and healthy life, for as long as possible. Physical activity is one of the lifestyle factors that can contribute to this, counteracting 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.”

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