Get Smart and Dance

Medically reviewed in January 2022

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the thing that worries most of us is that we will lose our minds. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are scary diagnoses. It is a fact that as we age, our brains shrink and our neural connections start to dry up. The first thing to go is remembering people’s names. Fortunately, learning and challenging ourselves can rewire our brains. We find alternative pathways to help us jog our memory for things such as names and places.

There was a study done of people over the age of 75 that was conducted over 21 years. The object was to see which activities helped to preserve brain function and reduce the risk of dementia. Interestingly, reading reduced the risk by 35%. Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week reduced the risk by 47%. Bicycling, golf and swimming reduced the risk by 0%.

 

The activity that had the most benefit and reduced the risk by 76% was dancing! Not just any dancing did the trick. It was dancing that required split second decisions. Ballroom dancing such as waltz, swing and especially Argentine tango fit the bill and can help maintain your brain. All these dances require the need to lead or follow directions and move the body accordingly. That need to make quick decisions and communicate with a partner increases the wiring of the brain and can help prevent deterioration.

 

Argentine tango has also been studied to see the general effect on the health of seniors and also for those with Parkinson’s disease. The benefits include increased muscle tone, spinal chord stability, improved balance and flexibility, reduced stress and anxiety and increased self-confidence.

 

Patients with Parkinson’s disease had improved balance, endurance and self-confidence with frequent tango lessons. In one group that was studied there was a decrease in the progression of the disease with tango.

 

Besides the fact that dance and specifically Argentine tango can improve your health, it is incredibly fun. You do not need to be Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire. You just need to be willing to get over your inhibitions and give it a try.

 

To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful.“ ~Agnes De Mille

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