February is the month of love, and we at Focus Physiotherapy LOVE movement.
Movement is what keeps our joints healthy, our muscles flexible, and can even help to keep our minds sharper. But what is the BEST type of movement and activity at keeping our bodies and brains young and healthy? What is the ultimate anti-aging activity? Weight-lifting? Daily walks? Running? Yoga? Research performed in the past several years hints that it may be dancing.
A relatively new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely do physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing as a form of exercise is more effective than other forms. According to Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld, the lead author of the study, when they compared dancing vs endurance training, “it was only dancing that led to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.” Additionally,the MRI brain scans performed from this study showed that age-related degeneration in brain structure improved dramatically when people (with an average age of 68) participated in a weekly course to learn choreographed dance routines.”
As an example of the age-defying benefits of dance, look at 93-year-old Dick Van Dyke nimbly tap dancing on a desk in the recent film “Mary Poppins Returns.” It doesn’t look that much different than his original performance as Bert the chimney sweep, 54 years ago!
Also, listen to the legendary “Queen of Swing,” Norma Miller, as she reflects on the source of her longevity. “Why I survived all this time, I don’t know…Whenever there was a difficult crisis, going back to dancing always made me overcome it.Dancing has been the elixir of life, all my life.”
What is the magic of dance? According to Psychology Today, “Previous research has shown that learning and memorizing choreographed dance routines or tapping your fingers to musical beats presents unique challenges that promote neural activity and functional connectivity between multiple brain regions.” Dancing may just be the perfect blend of activity that can challenge your cardiovascular system, your muscles, and keep your balance, coordination, and brain healthy.
If you’re not ready to hit the dance floor, or you have a fear of losing your balance, then it may be time to check in with a physiotherapist/ physical therapist. Physiotherapists are musculoskeletal experts at assessing balance and your overall musculoskeletal health.Your first day will focus on finding the areas that need improvement, and your follow-up visits are all about finding ways to help you move better – through balance exercises, hands-on joint mobilization and stretching, and strengthening.
Where can you find dancing opportunities around the Huntsville-Madison area? Both the Madison and Huntsville Senior Centers offer dance classes for beginners and above, and group classes can also be found at the Madison Ballroom studio, and the Huntsville Ballroom studio.
Madison Senior Center: Phone: (256) 830-1576. http://www.madisonal.gov/235/Senior-Center
Huntsville Senior Center: Phone: (256) 880-7080 http://www.seniorview.com/
Madison Ballroom Dance Studio: Phone: (256) 461-1900 http://www.madisonballroom.com/
Huntsville Ballroom Studio: Phone: (256) 469-8299 https://www.huntsvilleballroom.com/
Need one more dose of inspiration to get out on the dance floor? Check out this video of an older couple, strutting their stuff!
1. Kathrin Rehfeld, Patrick Müller,Norman Aye, Marlen Schmicker, Milos Dordevic, Jörn Kaufmann, Anita Hökelmann,Notger G. Müller. Dancing or Fitness Sport? The Effects of Two Training Programs on Hippocampal Plasticity and Balance Abilities in Healthy Seniors. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2017; 11 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00305
2. Mckinley, Patricia & Jacobson,Allison & Leroux, Alain & Bednarczyk, Victoria & Rossignol, Michel& Fung, Joyce. (2008). Effect of a Community-Based Argentine Tango Dance Program on Functional Balance and Confidence in Older Adults. Journal of aging and physical activity. 16. 435-53. 10.1123/japa.16.4.435.