As you grow older, you may find yourself worrying about your chances of developing dementia.
What’s one of the most important things you can do? Get regular exercise. As it turns out, dancing sits at the top of the heap for one of the best preventative exercise options. Let’s take a closer look at dementia and how dancing helps you not only keep not your body fit, but your brain too.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is defined as the decline or loss of certain key mental functions, including thought, memory, and logic. Most people affected by these damaging changes develop Alzheimer’s disease. But, other forms of dementia exist. These include Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal lobar degeneration, vascular dementia, and mixed dementia. Also, many health conditions can closely mimic dementia’s brain effects.
Doctors don’t view dementia as a normal part of the aging process. Up to 50% of people who pass their mid-80s will, unfortunately, develop the condition. However, many don’t, and it’s not uncommon to live for nine decades or longer while holding on to a healthy brain. Worried about your dementia risks? You don’t have to sit by and wait. Instead, you can take active steps to reduce your chances of developing problems.
Exercise and Dementia Risks
Studies show that exercise is a crucial part of an effective preventative health plan. Other important factors include healthy eating, stress management, social engagement, adequate sleep, and adequate mental stimulation. In fact, by getting regular exercise, you can potentially cut your risks for Alzheimer’s in half. And if you already have dementia, an active lifestyle can help slow down your rate of mental decline. Regular physical activity is crucial to preserving existing nerve connections in your brain. It also improves your ability to form new connections.
Dementia specialists recommend that you engage in mild activity for 150 minutes or more every week. Some fun examples to add to your routine include aerobic exercises, strength training, and exercises that improve your balance and coordination.
The Particular Benefits of Dancing
You might think of dancing as just a physical activity. But behind the scenes, it also helps provide a workout for key areas of your brain. Those areas are responsible for some of your core mental functions, including memory, rational thought, and emotional control. Dancing stimulates your brain in that it forces you to coordinate your body in complex ways.
Research indicates that two forms of exercise can help slow down or even reverse age-related changes in your brain. Dancing falls into this elite category, along with endurance training. However, dancing is even better for you than endurance training. Why? dancing has an additional benefit. Namely, it helps you change your behavior and avoid balance-related problems as you age.
The Type of Dancing Matters
When it comes to preventative measures, not all dancing is the same. Any time you learn a new step, you’ll forge new pathways in your brain and maintain existing ones. But, if you pick a dance style with a set routine of steps, the benefits to your mental health can disappear. That’s true because you won’t have to push yourself when you get comfortable. Instead, you can just rely on muscle memory.
To get around this problem, you can do one of several things. First, you can continue to learn new dances styles instead of sticking to the tried and true. As an alternative, you can choose a style known for its spontaneity and improvised decision-making. Specific examples in this category include the Lindy Hop and other swing dances. Additional examples include the Waltz styles and the Foxtrot. If you like, you can also improvise your own moves out on the floor.
The More the Better
As long as you stay within your physical limits, the brain-related benefits of dancing keep on giving. In other words, the more often you hit the dance floor, the more you can fight back against dementia. Think of 150 minutes a week as your baseline goal. Every minute you add to that total may help keep you functional for a longer period.
Need help establishing a dementia-preventing dance program?
Call on the experts at Arthur Murray Dance Studio. With our private lessons, you can find just the right options to help maximize your mental health at any age.