Does Dancing Improve Memory?

Does dancing improve memory? If you’re looking for a fun-filled way to improve your memory, dancing may be the answer. Richard Powers, an instructor at Stanford University’s Dance Division, summarizes some research that looked at the effect of various types of physical activity on mental functioning. Guess which activity won out!

Does dancing improve memory? Apparently, it is far better for your brain than other types of activity.

Does Dancing Improve Memory?

You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging.   Here it is in a nutshell.

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.  They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect.  Other activities had none.

They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments.  And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.  There was one important exception:  the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.
Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia
Bicycling and swimming – 0%
Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47%
Playing golf – 0%
Dancing frequently – 76%.
That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

Quoting Dr. Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who wrote an accompanying commentary:
“The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use.”

And from from the study itself, Dr. Katzman proposed these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses.  Like education, participation in some leisure activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving cognitive reserve.

Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed.  If it doesn’t need to, then it won’t.

You can read the entire article here.

Does dancing improve memory? Yes, it looks like it’s time to sign up for dance classes, put on your dancing shoes, and go have fun improving your memory.

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Comments

  1. Diana M. Harris says:

    Love it! I also dance! This is awesome to know!

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