|Dancing: Good for the Mind, Body|
|Written by By Sally Morris, Contributing Writer http://www.hpr1.com/wellness.htm|
"Quick, Quick, Slow
Take Steps Today to Retain Your Mental Agility!"
"Eat blueberries." "Do crossword puzzles." "Play a musical instrument." "Learn to love the story problems in your math text." "Drink red wine." "Go out dancing."
Which of the above can help you to avoid - or at least delay - the onset of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia? The correct answer is, "All of the above." But personally, I think dancing is the most fun. It turns out that it's also one of the most effective deterrents we have to dementia.
Researchers have long sought clues to the causes, and possible cures and treatments for this terrible condition. It causes untold heartache when a loved one is afflicted. Dementia, whether Alzheimer's, vascular (related to stroke and vascular disease), of mixed origin or related to chemical disorder, is a thief not only of the victim's golden years, memories and personal dignity, but of the resources and time of his family. It is not a respecter of position or native intelligence. It can and does strike some of the best of us.
It is important for us all to seek ways to defeat this robber. Recently, the findings of a study done in New York were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. A group of 469 men and women over 75 years of age were studied during the 21-year period from 1980 to 2001. Researchers wanted to determine whether physical activity played a part in the onset of dementia, or whether mental activity was an important factor. The subjects were studied for an average of 5.1 years each. They were monitored as to their various activities - cognitive ones, including reading, doing crossword puzzles, learning to play a musical instrument, playing cards, playing board games, participating in group discussions and physical activities - such as housework, babysitting, sports and ballroom dancing. Over all, those who were mentally active were 75 percent less likely to develop dementia. Physical activity was found to have less impact. And the most effective activity of all was ballroom dancing - which lowered the risk by 76 percent!
Ballroom dancing provides a lot of physical exercise, of course. As a dance instructor, I have been told by students, "I work out several times a week, but after dance class I really can feel it! It's a real workout!" Evidence shows that this form of exercise is the only one that also has a beneficial effect in reducing the risk of Alzheimer's. While exercise in most forms can be very good for us, this alone can claim mental benefits as well. Obviously, dancing of any kind is good for our circulation and our hearts. Moving to music seems less tedious. There are lots of benefits physically in practicing dancing, but ballroom dance seems to offer even more. Considering the reasons for this, the director of the study, Dr. Joe Verghese, a professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, suggests, "The requirements of Ballroom Dancing -- remembering steps, moving in precise time to the music and adapting to the movements of one's partner - are mentally demanding exercises. Therefore, Ballroom Dancing offers both physical and mental stimulation."
There are social benefits as well. Social benefits also enhance mental well being at any age. Verghese continues: "What often happens when people get old and retire is that they withdraw from activity, live a restricted life and go and lie on the beach. Do something that is mentally challenging to you."
Much is being done elsewhere in the area of research in various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Rebok is now working on a five-year national study involving approximately 3,000 senior citizens. It involves mental workouts in three group/areas: 1) sharpening memory; 2) boosting reasoning; and 3) focusing simultaneously on multiple sensory inputs. Now, two years into the study, all three groups have shown lasting improvement, but those who learned the focusing techniques show the greatest improvement. This would appear to be consistent with the New York study, because ballroom dancing requires focusing. Studies undertaken in Canada and at the University of Illinois underscore the importance of physical exercise in mental agility and all of this points to dance as a nearly perfect activity to maintain our mental health and memory function. Dancing not only provides physical exercise and mental focusing but a wonderful social outlet as well.
So do that crossword puzzle-in ink! Start working on your novel, or read someone else's, learn Russian, beat you kid at chess, get cast in a play and memorize your lines, master the guitar, or "all of the above". But for the supreme benefits, not only to your mind, but also for your everlasting joy, come join us on the dance floor!
(For more information about the New York study, ref. Verghese et al, New England Journal of Medicine, 2003:378:2508-2516.)As Always...Happy Dancing!