Picture the scene; you’re at home on your own feeling fed up and suddenly your favourite song from your teens comes onto the radio, you turn it up jump up and start dancing around your kitchen like your life depends on it, singing along knowing every word off by heart, before collapsing on the sofa in fits of giggles feeling happy, elated and carefree. We have already looked into why music instantly improves wellbeing, but did you know that there’s now solid proof that dancing is not only good for you, it can also help to keep you younger for longer.
Researchers from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Disease and Institute for Sports Science recently found that learning choreographed dance routines significantly improved age-related brain generation, after they worked with a focus group of adults with an average age of 68 years old. They concluded that all aerobic exercise – cycling, swimming and even walking regularly – helps improve memory, but that only dancing helps improve issues with balance.
Kathrin Rehfeld, who is the lead author of the study explained: “Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity. In this study, we show that 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 behavioural changes in terms of improved balance.”
This is an important aspect of the study because many older people end up having their quality of life ruined by falling and seriously hurting themselves – perhaps ending up with a broken hip, or wrist – because of problems with balance. In turn this might lead to an extended hospital stay, or no longer being able to live independently.
“I believe that everybody would like to live an independent and healthy life, for as long as possible,” underlines Rehfeld. “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.”
Further, Dr Stella Compton Dickinson tells Lumity that the music component of dancing is valuable for older people who are grappling with remembering details, or sequences of events as they age – especially those who are becoming confused about or forgetting when and where (or even if) certain things happened:
“Music has associations to times and places in our lives. If we hear a song from a different time in our life it can bring back all those old feelings. It may be very romantic, sad, happy or funny. Music can make us feel nostalgic and it can therefore make us laugh or cry, feel warm and loving or uncomfortable and full of regret,” she says.
“When working with elderly people, if they hear a favourite old song this can bring back happier times and they can then often recall the lyrics which may not have been thought about in ages – then the individual can enjoy sharing their memories. This is important in helping the individual to have a sense of wellbeing as well as continuity across their life-span and then to orientate them to all that they have done decade by decade.”
If you’re considering making dance classes a part of your exercise routine, there’s a number of options available: From tap dancing, to belly dancing, to jazz dancing, tango, pole dancing, Latin dancing, hip hop, salsa, Irish dancing, line dancing, ballroom, ballet and even break-dancing are just a few of the choreographed ones which we have found on offer in most towns, and then if you want to you can always attend a yoga rave later in the week.
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