Natural Health

The “Fred Astaire Secret” For Saving Your Memory

The “Fred Astaire Secret” For Saving Your Memory about undefined
If you’re concerned there may be memory trouble in your future, something you can do to save your memory is to take a page out of Fred Astaire’s book… and that is turn up the music and dance. While just about any kind of dancing can get your blood pumping and give your cognition a lift, the type of moves Fred Astaire specialized in can really give your brain and your memory a boost… We’ve told you about the benefits of dance before, and now a new study shows that you don’t have to reach the dizzy heights of Fred Astaire’s and Ginger Rogers’ physical ability to reap real mental rewards from dancing. But, according to the latest research, ballroom dancing should be your first choice because it may edge out other types of dancing when it comes to sharpening your memory.

Dancing Reduces Dementia Risk By 76 Percent

Back in 2003, a major study conducted by scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, found different types of dancing reduced the risk of dementia by a whopping 76 percent.  In fact, dancing was more effective than walking, climbing stairs, cycling, or swimming. Since then, other studies have confirmed the value of dancing to stop dementia in its tracks. Between them they show ballroom dancing can benefit different aspects of memory and overall cognition. A recent review evaluated eleven studies. The researchers concluded by writing: “Dance is a promising therapeutic intervention for older adults looking to improve their cognitive health.” While the earlier study compared dancing to traditional exercise, few others have done so. This inspired a new team at Albert Einstein College to conduct a fresh study.

Increases Processing Speed and Lowers Brain Atrophy

Sixteen men and women over the age of 65 had a screening interview which indicated they were at greater risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. None engaged in dancing or any other form of exercise. Researchers split them into two groups. One group took twice-weekly ballroom dancing classes for six months, while the other attended twice-weekly treadmill walking classes. They all took tests that measured different aspects of cognitive function and underwent brain scans. At the end of the trial, both groups saw an improvement in executive function, which is involved with planning, reasoning, and processing tasks that require attention. However, compared to walkers, dancers saw markedly greater improvements in processing speed – the time it takes to respond to and process information. They also had reduced brain atrophy in the hippocampus – a key memory area that’s particularly affected by Alzheimer’s disease. It’s known from previous research that this part of our brain can undergo neurogenesis – or grow new neurons – in response to aerobic exercise.

Strengthens A Wide Network Of Brain Regions

Although the study involved few participants and much larger trials are needed to confirm the findings, lead researcher Helena Blumen believes social dancing is likely to be more beneficial than walking because it’s physically, socially, and cognitively demanding. Meanwhile, the ballroom dancer enjoys a physical workout that increases the heart rate and uses brain regions that are important for physical movement. Intellectual skills are also challenged from learning the steps and remembering what’s already been learnt. Having to work with a partner means interacting and adapting to their movements. The overall effect of dancing enables a wide network of brain regions to be strengthened. And best of all, this is possible even in later life. Since ballroom dancing has all these benefits and targets both isolation and inactivity, Dr. Blumen says it’s a great therapy for anyone over the age of 50. Dr. Blumen explains by writing, “Lifestyle interventions like social ballroom dancing are a promising, noninvasive and cost-effective path toward staving off dementia…”

My Takeaway

Whether you prefer to waltz, tango, or foxtrot – it doesn’t seem to matter – the complex mental coordination, physical movements, and partner cooperation that ballroom dancing requires is a real boost to the brain and offers great protection to your memory. If you’re looking for a new hobby with your spouse or you live alone and are seeking more social interaction, consider putting on your dancing shoes and hitting the ballroom floor. And, if dancing isn’t your thing, just get moving. Virtually any type of physical activity is more beneficial to the health of your body and brain than sitting around.

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