Dance your way to a healthy brain

Twerking, booty shaking and hip swivelling … they’re not moves we typically associate with old age. But perhaps we should. We now know that dancing is great for improving brain function – which could pay dividends when we reach old age.

Getting your groove on is not just great for fitness. It’s great for your hippocampus. No, that is not a trendy new name for your derriere, it’s a key area of the brain that’s responsible for long and short term memory.

For many years scientists thought that once the brain was fully formed and at capacity that was it, from then on it slowly degenerated. It was widely believed that, over the course of your life you lost brain cells, called neurons, and there wasn’t much you could do about it.

Now we know that’s not the case. Modern research shows that throughout your life the brain has the ability to adapt and regenerate – all it needs is the right environment.

Dance classes can be the perfect place. For most of us dancing is both physically and mentally challenging. It combines the processing, coordination and execution of unique movements and requires a lot of genuine concentration. This type of active concentration-based activity can increase the amount of cells in the brain’s hippocampus.

Cell growth in the hippocampus is important because one of the first areas of the brain to show deterioration, causing problems with memory. If you proactively look to increase the amount of cells in the hippocampus it can potentially lower the risk of suffering from terrible conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s in old age.

The great news is that brain cell regeneration happens at any age. So not only should we all be jumping on the dance bandwagon when we’re young, we should also be encouraging all our older relatives to steer clear of their traditional lawn bowls or golf and simply get their groove on.

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