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Fun for the Brain: Dances That Fight Cognitive Decline

Last week, we talked about playing video and computer games as a fun way to keep your brain in shape (click here to read that article). Here’s another way beyond doing crossword puzzles to help maintain brain functions, including memory, perception, learning, and creativity, as you age – and enjoy the exercise.

How Dancing Helps Our Brains

 

Dancing keeps our brains healthy as well as maintaining physical fitness and providing social interaction.

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine study of people age 75 and older for 21 years, measuring the effects of various recreational activities on their brains.  They studied cognitive activities (reading books, playing cards, doing crossword puzzles) as well as physical activities (playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking). A surprising result of this study showed that frequent dancing is the only physical activity that offers protection against dementia!

Learning a new dance improves our brain in these ways:

  • Sharpens mental acuity (that’s because dancing involves split-second decision making)
  • “Rewires” the brain or improves neural connections and increases mental capacity
  •  Generates new brain pathways which aids in creative thinking
  • Integrates and engages different brain functions at once – kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional.

 

What Kind of Dancing Is Best?

 

While all types of dancing are good for your body, studies have shown that social partner dances such as foxtrot, swing, waltz, mambo and salsa, also challenge your mind.  Whether you’ve led or followed while social dancing, then you’ve experienced the need for rapid decisions as you glide across the dance floor.  Dancing a variety of dances and with different partners enhances your brain alertness and flexibility.

Dance Videos for Learning

 

If you’re not ready to boogie on down to your local dance studio for lessons,  give your mind and body a workout by following one of these introductory dance videos on YouTube:

How to East Coast Swing

How to Foxtrot

How to Waltz

Need inspiration to get started? Watch Tao-Porchon Lynchat age 91.

 

What’s your favorite type of dancing?  Are you taking lessons or dancing socially already?

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2 comments
  • ralph43
    REPLY

    I WOULD LIKE THE RESTORATION CENTER T9O PUT ON DANCES FOR SRS.
    & CAN YOU SUGGEST WHERE CAN I FIND
    DANCERS ONE OF THE PROBLEMS I
    USED TO RUN IN TO WHEN EVERY ONE IS BETTER THEN ME I AM RETIRE &
    SEVENTY YEARS YOUNG THANK YOU
    Ralph Feingold I FORGOT TO MENTION I
    AM IN FOREST HILLS THANK YOU

    • Linda Abbit
      REPLY

      Hi Ralph,

      I’m sorry I don’t live in your area and can’t direct you to a local dance studio, but from years of social dancing I know that all group dance classes are arranged from beginning through advanced dance levels. If you take a beginners class you should find the other people there are new to dancing (or that particular dance) just like you are. Also, you don’t need to have a partner to join a class. Group classes rotate partners, because it is important to be able to lead or follow with anyone who asks you when you social dance. Classes incorporate that experience when you rotate partners while practicing the steps they are teaching. Keep dancing!

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