North Central News

Dancing helps brain, body in seniors

This year alone, more than a half-million Americans will die from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will kill 1 in 3 seniors.

An encouraging study in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals seniors who participated regularly in some type of dance program experienced a 76 percent risk reduction in dementia, the highest reduction of any activity in the 20-year project.

Not only that, but the AARP reports people with Alzheimer’s disease are able to recall forgotten memories when they dance to music they used to know.

Dancing helps seniors build up what scientists refer to as “brain reserve” that may protect people from Alzheimer’s later in life. Brain-boosting dance activities include remembering the steps; moving in precise time to the music; and adapting to the movements of one’s partner.

There are also many physical benefits to the body. Dancing boosts bone density, along with muscle strength and coordination. Seniors experience improved balance, and the side-to-side motions of many ballroom dances, such as mambo and swing, strengthen the tibia, fibula, and femur, and also help in the prevention or slow loss of bone mass associated with osteoporosis.

Social dancing is a great way to keep older Americans engaged. Aside from giving people something to enjoy, it reduces social isolation and the aches and pains frequently experienced in old age.

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