Dancing can improve your balance

If you’re a little on the older side, your balance may not be what it used to be.

You set foot out of the front door… and next thing you know, you’re on the pavement.

You never even saw it coming!

Everyone gets a little clumsy now and then – but as you add candles to your birthday cake, a bad fall could land you in the hospital with a broken hip, or worse.

It could even put you in an early grave.

That’s because an area of your brain called the hippocampus – which plays a key role in your balance – can shrink with age, causing you to feel more unsteady on your feet.

There’s no magic pill you can pop to slow down this process, but according to a new study, there’s a natural way to halt the “brain drain” and preserve your steadiness.

You’re going to want to strap on your dancing shoes for this one – because it turns out that hitting the dance floor can stop and even reverse the decline in your brain that causes balance problems.

For the study, a group of elderly volunteers was divided into two groups: Half of them participated in weekly endurance and flexibility training (including cycling and something intriguingly called “Nordic walking”), while the other half took a weekly dance class that involved learning dance routines in various genres from jazz to salsa.

They even had to recall and perform those routines on their own!

A year and a half later, both groups showed an increase in the size of the hippocampus region of their brains.

Now, that just confirms what we already knew about exercise – and how beefing up your muscles can also beef up your brain.

But there was something else the researchers found: It was only those in the dance group who also demonstrated a noticeable improvement in another area.

The dancers showed better balance!

That may be because dancing not only got the participants moving – it also constantly presented them with new movement and memory challenges.

The theory is that keeping the dancers literally “on their toes” gave their brains a more complex workout than the endurance and flexibility training, accounting for the greater balance benefits.

So, if you’re concerned about staying stable on your feet, don’t cut out walking – instead, cut a rug!

Your balance isn’t the only thing that might improve from the boost that dancing gives to your hippocampus. This area of your brain is also crucial in learning, memory, and navigation, so “shaking a tail feather” may help reduce your age-related “brain burps.”

In fact, previous studies have shown that ballroom dancing in particular can slash your risk of developing dementia by a whopping 67 per cent!

Check your local community centre or dance studio for a class that fits your schedule and captures your interest.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Editor
Nutrition & Healing

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Sources:

Dancing Reverses Signs of Aging in the Brain, newsmax.com/Health/Health-News/dancing-reverses-aging-brain/2017/08/25/id/809794/

Dancing or Fitness Sport? The Effects of Two Training Programs on Hippocampal Plasticity and Balance Abilities in Healthy Seniors, journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00305/full

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