The concept of a sound mind in a sound body isn’t something we tend to think about in our youth. We’re agile, often building a career, creating a family of our own, and trying to find our place in the world. As we age, however, ailments and diseases that come to attack our minds and bodies start to grow in our concern.

It comes as no surprise that physical activity is one of the best ways to keep your mind healthy. Years of research have established the fact that regular physical activity can slow down the brain aging process. Now, I’m not a neuroscientist, but I often talk with my patients about the benefits of exercise and maintaining an active lifestyle. One of the less discussed ways to “keep moving” that I think is interesting, and may not get enough credit, is dancing and its effect on your body and brain!

A recent study demonstrated the fact that dancing, as a form of physical activity, has the most profound effect on brain aging and can even help decrease age-related cognitive decline in the people who have “been around the block” a few times. I won’t bore you with stats or a lot of science, but suffice it say that comparing the effects of light, age appropriate sports versus dancing on your clarity-of-mind and balancing abilities, dancing was found to fight the age related decline better than physical training.  

So How Does Dancing Keep Your Brain Young?

Strengthening your motor skills and dynamic balance training, as in the case of dancing, increases the volume of the gray matter of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory, learning and balance. Long term balance training helps this part of your brain stay fit. This is commonly noted in ballet dancers.
Dancing, in fact, is continuing to be studied to help aging people ward off dementia.

Put Those Dancing Shoes On!

Now, you have all the more reason to dance your woes away! You’re not too old to start dancing. Consider adding it to your daily workout routine so that you can step into old age with a healthy body and a healthy mind. Take physical activity seriously. There is no better way to stay on your feet and be vigilant at the same time than dancing.

Just do it safely and be sure to warm up your joints before you shimmy!