We all expect some physical and mental decline as we age, but of course, we hope to keep those challenges at bay for as long as possible! Fascinatingly, more and more studies seem to be pointing to dance as a fun and accessible activity, which seems to take on just about all aspects of age-related decline with impressive results. With a twirl and a heel kick, let’s investigate all the reasons why you or your senior loved one should consider signing up for a dance class today!
A Little Cha-Cha Is All It Takes For A Happy Hippocampus
The Hippocampus is an important part of our brain that plays a key role in all sorts of things from short and long term memory, spatial awareness, coordination and the chemical signalling that makes us feel happy. Rather inconveniently, the Hippocampus tends to decline naturally as we age and even more so in those suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia. Atrophy of the Hippocampus is evident in sufferers of depression too, at any age, but interestingly the Hippocampus is an area of the brain that is pretty good at growing and recovering, which is where those dance classes come in!
A great little study in the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases looked at the health impact of movement on grey matter in a group of healthy senior volunteers. The group was split in two and set about 18 months of either weekly dance classes or weekly traditional fitness training. While both groups showed exciting growth in the Hippocampus, the dancers showed further grey matter growth, both in and outside of the Hippocampus. They also exhibited unique improvements in balance; a bonus for reducing the likelihood of falls. Click here for more info.
Another study in Prague found that engaging older adults residing in nursing homes with a weekly dance class led to a dramatic reduction in rates of depression, so much so that some participants who had previously been taking medication for the treatment of their depressive symptoms were able to stop taking them all together!
Take a Spin On The Dance Floor For Increased Strength And Mobility
The stronger and more agile we are, the more we are able to retain our independence and get the most out of life. Having a boogie might just be the perfect pass-time to keep our bodies strong as we age. When a group of American heart patients took up regular gentle dance classes for an American Heart Association study, they experienced not only a boost in their physical and emotional well being but improvement in their heart function too. A review of multiple US-based studies on dancing for health in older adults found that regardless of your preferred style, dance significantly improves muscular strength and endurance, so to reap the benefits, the choice really is yours!
Whether you Waltz, Salsa or do the Charleston, you can expect improved energy and posture, and a boost in motivation to take better care of yourself will likely accompany your new found hobby. For those experiencing physical discomfort, you might be happy to hear that psychology researchers at the University of Oxford even found that dance leads us to experience less pain, suggesting that the symptoms of physical ailments can be alleviated by a good shimmy too!
Jive Your Way Into A Routine You Can Stick To
We all know that sticking to a fitness routine we don’t enjoy is tough, which is why dance is such a great choice to get us moving. Participating as part of a group creates instant social bonds, and connecting with others is so very important for our mental health. The constant stimulation of learning new moves and routines, and the coordination required to perform them with others, will keep you engaged and help you stay sharp and reflexive. The playful nature of dance is bound to make you feel so vibrant, that you might forget that you are exercising at all!
While the risks associated with dance for older adults are low, it is always wise to check in with your doctor before beginning a new physical activity. You can choose how vigorous the style of dance you try will be, and participate in an intensity that suits you. Remember that dancing is always about freedom and fun! There are so many benefits to be felt, and classes aimed at a more mature demographic are becoming ever more popular. Why not explore to see what classes are available in your local area, and perhaps see who else you can tempt to join you?!