A  recent study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience has found dance classes can reverse some signs of aging in the  brain. Older adults who were asked to constantly change dance routines including Jazz, Square, Latin-America and line dance experienced an increase in the Hippocampus. the brain region responsible for memory and learning, along with keeping one’s balance.

The study focused on which type of physical exercise was better at combating age-related brain decline in a group of elderly participants with an average age of 68. They were assigned either an 18 month weekly course of learning routines or endurance and flexibility training.

The dance group was challenged with different dance routines,  changing steps, arm-patterns, formations, speed rhythms every second week to stay in a constant learning process. while the traditional fitness training group did repetitive exercise, cycling or walking.

Both groups showed an increase in the hippocampus, however, the dance group also showed a significant difference in balance compared to their counterparts.  Age-related mental decline is linked to balance disturbances and cognitive impairment.  But physical exercise, like dancing is able to combine aerobic fitness, sensorimotor skills and cognitive demands that lead to hippocampal volume increase and a significant increase in balance.

Previous research has found there is a link between dancing and preventing various forms of dementia.  A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, conducted over a 21-year span,noted senior citizens who danced frequently reduced their chance of developing dementia by 76%, almost double any other form of physical or cognitive activity.  Freestyle dancing was seen to be most effective, it forces the brain to regularly rewire its neural pathways since it requires split-second and fast decision making.  Moreover, it improves cognitive reserve…the mind’s resistance to  damage of the brain..and enhances neuronal synapses, so information can be passed along to other neurons.

Cognitive decline is one of the biggest health threats in old age, with 47 million people worldwide with dementia. Dancing intervention programs can help delay the onset of the disease or slow its progression.