As anyone who has found joy, fun, and camaraderie on the dance floor knows, the act of moving to music can be profoundly satisfying. 

Research shows that not only can dancing be fun, it may also reverse signs of aging in the brain.   

That’s courtesy of a dance and exercise study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience that observed a cohort of volunteers (average age, 68) over an 18-month period. 

The study, conducted in Magdeburg, Germany, at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, spilt the participants into two groups: One group took part in a weekly dance course; the other, in weekly endurance and flexibility training.  

Over the length of the study, both groups showed increased activity in the hippocampus region of the brain, which plays a crucial role in memory, learning and balance, and can be severely impacted by cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.  

The crucial difference between the groups was that the participants in the dance course also experienced an increase in balance, something not seen in the endurance and flexibility training.  

The team attributed the results to a contrast in the structure of the two courses: The endurance and flexibility training consisted largely of repetitive routines such as nordic walking and bike riding, whereas the dance class featured a new dance each week, challenging participants to learn and remember new movements and patterns regularly.

The dance class featured a new dance each week, challenging participants to learn and remember new movements and patterns.

The dance styles included jazz, line, Latin-American and square, and participants were expected to remember specific formations, rhythms, and routines.

It was this challenge to memory and the introduction of evolving lessons (new dances), researchers said, that makes dancing a superior challenge for both cognitive health and balance.

So when considering ways to get physically active, folks should hit the dance floor and learn that dance routine they always wanted to learn. 

Whether it’s the foxtrot; the electric slide; or, for the sake of making the grandkids laugh, the floss, it may not just be fun. It may also keep you feeling young.   

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