Dancing improves brain function in older adults

Get your dancing shoes on - your brain will thank you for it. This is the take-away message from a new study, which found that physical activity in later life - particularly dancing - can help to reverse the signs of brain aging.

Researchers found that dancing increased hippocampal volume and improved balance in older adults.
As we age, a number of brain changes occur, including a decrease in brain tissue, a reduction in blood flow, and a decline in communication between brain cells.
All of these changes can interfere with cognitive functioning, especially learning and memory.
Previous studies have suggested that physical activity in later life can help to reduce cognitive decline. A study reported that for example, linked regular moderate- to high-intensity exercise to a slower decline in memory and thinking skills for the over-50s.

But which forms of exercise are most effective against brain aging?

 Lead study author Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld, of the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Germany, and colleagues sought to answer this question with their new research.

They recently reported their findings in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Dancing and the hippocampus
The study included 52 healthy adults aged 63-80 years. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of two exercise groups for 18 months.
One group was required to participate in a 90-minute dancing lesson each week for 18 months, while the other group engaged in 90 minutes of strength-endurance training each week.
The researchers note that physical activity varied between each group; while the dance group faced new routines every week, the activities of the strength-endurance training group were repetitive.

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