In the recent New York Times article, “Walk, Stretch or Dance? Dancing May Be Best for the Brain“, researchers detail studies comparing the neurological effects of various types of physical activity on the brains of older adults. This most recent study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience compared the neurological effects of country dancing with those of walking and other physical activities. The study suggests that there may be something unique about learning a social dance. The demands it places on the mind and body could make it unusually potent at slowing some of the changes inside our skulls that seem otherwise inevitable with aging.
When compared with groups who engaged in one of three activities, Brisk walking, stretching and balance training, or learning to dance, the study found that individuals who participated in the dance activity for 1 hour, three times weekly showed a significant increase in the part of the brain responsible for both processing speed and memory. The other test groups showed some continued signs of degeneration, especially in the oldest of the participants. For comparison it is also important to understand that all individuals on the preliminary test of the study showed some signs of white matter degeneration of the brain.
What can be concluded from this study? First, that movement as we age has a dramatic effect on the human brain and can actually halt or reverse aging related mental decline. Movement, processing information while moving, and socialization dramatically impact the ability to Age Well.