Exercise sprouts new nerve cells, but if they are not required by mental training, they atrophy again. Movement alone is not enough.
In a study, 40 people were examined, on average 68 years old. One half did fitness and strength exercises of all kinds, the other half did a special ambitious dance training, changing the program and the choreography every four weeks and having a variety of music. So the probands received new stimuli, learned playfully and were emotionally addressed.
After six months, the dance probands had significantly improved alertness, better balance and flexibility. The fitness probands increased only their alertness.
The brains of both groups had grown, albeit in different regions. Only the dancers, however, had an increase of nerve growth factor, which is important for the formation of nerve cells and for long-term memory. According to Müller, apparently new nerve cells have formed in the dancer’s brains.
Twelve months later, changes in verbal memory were detected in favor of the dancers. Therefore, Müller assumed that regular dance training delays mental decline in a possible mild dementia.
Sources: Harvard, Einstein College, 2003, new England Journal of Medicine, BBC, der Spiegel
To give a résumé, dancing requires both your body and your brain, because you do many things at the same time:
1. Move synchronously to the music
2. Learn steps
3. Remember the steps
4. Coordinate your own movements
5. Coordinate the movements with your dance partner
6. Leading – forward-looking, timely and physical coordination
7. To be guided – reaction, translate signals in moves, as well as timely and physical coordination
This ensures the formation and preservation of important nerve cells, prevents the risk of dementia and treats movement disorders such as those that occur in Parkinson’s disease.
And by the way, regular dancing also increases your condition and musculature, can enrich the partnership, promote social skills and, of course, be fun!