Not too long ago, we ran a blog post that suggested that you could run your way to a sharper brain. Now, new research says your brain may experience similar benefits by spending time line dancing or doing the salsa.
According to a new study, individuals who participated in a dance routine showed improved neurological biomarkers compared to individuals assigned to other activities, like walking, stretching or balance training.
Dancing and Brain Function
For their study, researchers at the University of Illinois-Urbana recruited 174 healthy individuals with no signs of cognitive impairment to take part in the research. Most individuals stated that they lived sedentary lifestyles, but overall they were considered healthy participants. Each individual was given an aerobic fitness test and a mental aptitude test at the beginning of the study.
After assigning baseline scores, participants were divided into three groups:
- A supervised “brisk walking” group.
- A supervised “gentle stretching and balance training” group.
- A supervised “country line dance” group.
Each group met for three hours over the course of a week, and the training went on for a total of six months. After six months, participants took another aerobic conditioning and mental aptitude test.
After looking at the study results, researchers noted that most individuals experienced some degeneration of white matter inside the brain, which was associated with a decrease in the number of neurons and the number of connections between neurons in the brain. The degeneration was most noticeable in the oldest volunteers and those who had claimed to be the most sedentary before joining the study.
However, one group showed improvement in the health of some of the white matter in their brains – the country line dance group. Individuals in the dance group had denser white matter in their fornix, an area of the brain that is involved with brain processing speed and memory. Researchers suspect that the dancing, which required participants to learn and master new skills over the course of six months, helped strengthen white matter in the fornix.
Lead researcher Agnieszka Burzynska said that dancing and other newly learned activities can help keep our brains sharp as we get older, but the take home message from the study is to just make sure you are staying active.
“The message is that we should try not to be sedentary,” concluded Burzynska.
Lance Silverman, MD
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