By Rick McVicar
The rhythm and movement of dance stimulates the creation of brain activity in ways that reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
A 21-year study of senior citizens by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed frequent dancing reduces the risk of dementia by 76 percent. The study is described by Richard Powers in “Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter, Longer,” found on the Stanford Dance website.
Dancing is so effective because it involves several mental processes, including movement, music, emotion and reason. Split-second decision making in dance helps as well.
Powers notes that the brain needs stimulation in various forms to create new connections.
“Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed. If it doesn’t need it, it won’t,” Powers states.
Mere repetition does not help. An activity needs to push the brain in new directions, Powers adds.
The study compared dancing to a wide variety of activities, including reading, working crossword puzzles, tennis, housework and others as well.
As far as reducing the risk for dementia, dancing scored the highest. Crossword puzzles reduced the risk by 47 percent while reading books brought a 35 percent reduction, Powers writes.
A website hosted by Cheshire Dance in England, a dance studio that offers lessons for the disabled, describes why dance is so effective for brain health.
“Of all the art forms, dance is unique in placing the body and its lived experience as the site of exploration and art making,” the website states.
Dance connects someone with their own physical body as well as with others. Dance is social as well as physical, making the activity perfect for brain health, the website adds.
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