Dancing is a wonderful activity many senior citizens enjoy, and it also offers beneficial physical exercise. However, boosting physical health isn’t the only reason seniors should consider dancing. The New England Journal of Medicine published an article suggesting dancing reduces the risk of developing dementia. Here are a few ways dancing can help seniors lower their dementia risk.
1. Stimulates the Brain
Hearing the music played at dances has a powerful effect on the brain. The notes, chords, and lyrics of songs can access regions of the brain in unique ways. Familiar tunes automatically bring back memories by stimulating the memory centers of the brain, which is useful for preventing memory loss. Music can also stimulate the pleasure center.
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2. Boosts Heart Health
The journal Circulation published an article explaining that dancing offers the same aerobic cardiovascular benefits as cycling, jogging, walking, and other physical activities. Dancing strengthens the heart while encouraging dilation of blood vessels. This way, the brain receives better blood circulation that’s rich in oxygen and vital nutrients. Neurons are then better able to function and develop new pathways.
3. Enhances Movement
Researchers from Saint Louis University performed a 12-week study of a low-impact dance program featuring a group of seniors with an average age of 80. At the conclusion of the program, the older adults demonstrated better range of motion and walking ability, and many were able to decrease their dosages of pain medication. Along with enhancing their ability to remain independent, adults who dance regularly also increase their cardiovascular circulation by reducing joint stiffness and elevating their level of physical movement.
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4. Provides Mental Stimulation
The brain is busy continually making new neural pathways when needed. Having more pathways increases the ability of neurons to communicate with each other, which in turn increases the number of neurons regulating cognitive function. The cerebral cortex and hippocampus are areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Dancing encourages brain plasticity by requiring split-second decision-making. Neurons fire as dancers focus on enacting the various body movements required by different dances while paying attention to the music. Learning new dance steps ensures the brain remains stimulated. Dancing also stimulates the regions of the brain that regulate motor skills and the senses. A study performed over two decades by researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found seniors who danced on a regular basis reduced their risk of developing dementia by 76 percent.
5. Promotes Social Interaction
Attending dance classes or public dances with friends or significant others provides the chance to socialize. Dancing boosts emotional and mental health by decreasing anxiety and stress levels that often lead to inflammation. Chronic inflammation impairs blood circulation and damages brain cells. When seniors dance and socialize, their brains release dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters that inhibit inflammation and negative emotions.
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