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How Dancing Improves Brain Health

Young woman dancing in a field at sunset

Physical activity is an important Lifestyle Pillar that can help you and your loved ones prevent memory decline. Physical activity can sharpen mental performance, improve concentration, and elevate mood. Dancing is a fun, social, and effective alternative to running, walking or hitting the gym to achieve your daily exercise goals. The following lists outline how exercise – specifically dancing – can help concerned seniors protect and maintain their memory.

Exercise and Brain Health:

  • Physical exercise has shown to be effective in the prevention of age-related cognitive decline in elderly adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment. 

  • Exercise impacts the physiology of the aging brain through reduction of cardiovascular disease, improvement of cerebral perfusion, increase in neurotrophic factors, and thus acting as a brain neuroprotective factor.

  • Exercise aimed at skeletal muscle induces neuronal plasticity which may slow down, or even reverse the pathophysiological evolution of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

  • Hippocampus is one of the major brain sites of neuroplasticity due to its critical role in neuron generation, and is also the first area of accumulation of pathology in individuals developing AD.

Dance is a Viable Form of Exercise for the Brain:

  • Dancing provides healthy seniors benefits in sensory, motor, and cognitive demands, which counteract age-related decline in cognitive and physical abilities.

  • Dance is an activity that involves coordinating movements with music as well as brain activation because of the necessity to learn and remember sequences.

  • Dance has been used by the elderly as a type of treatment that could potentially improve quality of life, balance, and mobility.

  • Dance is considered as an activity that effectively integrates different senses through its connection of movement to music along with the notion of self-expression.

  • Social dance supports efforts to relieve physical and psychological degradation.

  • Through the revival of music and dance, elderly adults can share their passion with others, eliminating the feeling of loneliness and enhancing psychological status.

  • Dance is culturally appropriate and challenges individuals both cognitively and physically. 

  • Dance is a complex sensorimotor rhythmic activity which integrates multiple physical, cognitive, and social elements.

  • Dance requires individuals to plan, monitor, and execute a sequence of goal-directed complex actions, potentially influencing cognitive function. 

  • 3 lifestyle factors can play a significant role in slowing the rate of cognitive decline and preventing dementia: a socially integrated network, cognitive leisure activity, and regular physical activity: dance incorporates all three.

Results of Dancing on the Brain:

  • Significant changes in episodic memory were demonstrated, which has public health importance due to the importance of episodic memory in late-life cognition.  

    • Accelerated decline of episodic memory is a defining feature of dementia and research has shown that diverse dementia-related neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular pathologies are associated with episodic memory decline.

    • Strengthening the episodic memory can potentially delay the onset of common debilitating late-life cognitive disorders.

  • Dancing significantly improved memory, executive function, and global cognition.

  • Dancing contributes to the well-being of the elderly, enhancing independence and the quality of living.

  • Dancing significantly improves physical fitness, well-being, verbal fluency, attention, and executive function.

  • Choreographed dancing significantly improves verbal recognition memory and delayed recall visual memory.