Did you know that , while the risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases with age, it is not a normal part of aging, and it can affect people as young as their 30s and 40s? AD robs people of their whole essence, ravishing both the mind and body. The degenerative disease is a terminal illness with no cure.
Can this dreaded disease be prevented? This question is one that intrigues doctors, scientists and researchers, and there are no clear-cut answers. The Alzheimer’s Association and other groups continue to fund research on the development and progress of dementia. This is where ballroom dancing and other leisure activities come in.
Ballroom Dancing Heads The List Of Activities Proven To Stave Off Alzheimer’s And Dementia
Dance, piano playing, crossword puzzles and other activities appear to keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay. Two well-known studies — the Bronx Aging Study and the Religious Orders Study — suggest that mind-challenging activities may prevent or delay the onset of dementia in older adults.
Does physical activity have the same effect as mental exercise on the development of Alzheimer’s disease? It really depends on the activity.
According to the research, dancing seems to be one of the few physical activities that can delay the onset of dementia and actually re-wires the cerebal cortex.
In addition to physical exercise, dancing is a cognitive activity that requires concentration.
Ballroom Dancing Is The #1 Mind Challenging Activity For A Healthy Senior Lifestyle
Dancing, but more specifically Ballroom dancing, involves precise physical activity, listening to the music, remembering dance steps, and taking your partner into account, which is mentally testing.
The mental challenge of Ballroom dancing requires a person to think harder. Unlike the effects of purely physical activity, hard thinking will not wear out the brain. In fact, the more people use their “brain muscles,” the sharper they get.
“Ballroom dancing has everything in it for people to keep their wits. There can be cardiovascular benefits of many different physical activities for seniors but the only physical activity to actually offer protection against dementia was ballroom dancing on a regular basis” Dr. Jacqueline C. Dominguez, Memory Center director at St. Luke’s Medical Center in the Philippines
How Does Ballroom Dancing Rate?
Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia
Bicycling and swimming – 0%
Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47%
Playing golf – 0% (in fact it may also lead to Alzheimer’s since most players can’t remember their score by the time they hit the clubhouse )
Dancing frequently – 76%. – That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.
Quoting Dr. Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who wrote an accompanying
“The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably
plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use.”
Persons seem to be more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater
cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses. Like education, participation
in some certain activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving cognitive reserve.
Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed. If it doesn’t need to, then it won’t.
A study done by The Albert Einstein College of Medicine also showed that we need to keep as
many of those paths active as we can, while also generating new paths, to maintain the
complexity of our neuronal synapses.
But does any kind of dancing lead to increased mental acuity?
No, not all forms of dancing will produce this benefit. Not dancing which, like golf or swimming, mostly works on style or
retracing the same memorized paths. The key is the decision-making. Intelligence is what we use when we don’t already know what to do. But when it comes to preserving mental acuity, then some forms are significantly better than others. When we talk of intelligence (use it or lose
it) then the more decision-making we can bring into our dancing, the better. “Rapid-fire” decision making is what leads to this improvement in intelligence. Ballroom dancing requires a lot of quick decision making, in both the leading and the following roles.
Ballroom dancing integrates the mind, the emotions and the physical which the studies suggest
work together to improve mental health. It’s never too early or too late to start strengthening
your mind. In conclusion, to help stimulate the mind and the soul, we recommend taking some
ballroom dancing lessons if you haven’t already!
Dance With Us Ottawa has responded to the challenge of helping seniors have a healthy lifestyle. As well as specially priced classes just for seniors, there are monthly social dance parties where seniors can mingle with other like minded people, enjoying an evening of socializing and dancing. See you there!