Getting your groove on and learning new dance steps as you age can benefit your body and your balance.
If you exercise as you age, you can feel that life is enriched. You can make new friends, learn new skills and keep your body feeling healthy and young. And if you do some forms, like dancing, you can reap even more specific gains.
A study done at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany, had elderly volunteers with an average age of 68 participate in two types of exercise over 18 months.
Participants enjoyed regular endurance exercise as well as dancing.
“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),” says Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld, lead study author.
“Steps, arm-patterns, formations, speed and rhythms were changed every second week to keep them in a constant learning process.”
Both groups successfully increased the size of the hippocampus- the area of the brain that declines as you age. Those who danced, however, also improved their balance.
It’s thought that participants who were challenged to complete more complicated movements, and to memorize new dance routines showed the most improvement.
Dr. Rehfeld and her colleagues are hoping to use the results to develop new fitness programs for active seniors called Jymmin. It will combine “jamming” and gymnastics. Specifically, it will involve activities and movements that can maximize anti-aging effects on the brain.
“I believe that everybody would like to live an independent and healthy life, for as long as possible…I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age,” says Dr. Rehfeld.
The study was published in the most recent edition of the open-access journal, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.