Dancing For Your Health

Bust a move. Cut a rug. Get your groove on. Get down. Dance, dance, dance. Scientists are telling us that dancing is good for our….brain?!? We have all heard how important exercise is for our physical well-being, at any age. Exercise has been proven to slow or even counter act the age-related decline in physical and mental capacity. That’s great news, but what kind of exercise will give the best results? Turns out, dancing had the most profound effect on cognitive health over endurance fitness activities like cycling and Nordic walking.

Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, from the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany and lead author of the study, describes the methodology. Elderly volunteers, with an average age of 68, were recruited to the study and assigned either an eighteen-month weekly course of learning dance routines, or endurance and flexibility training. Both groups showed an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain. This region of the brain can be prone to age-related decline and is affected by diseases like Alzheimer’s. The hippocampus region also plays a key role in memory and learning, as well as keeping one’s balance.

Dr Rehfeld explains, “We tried to provide our seniors in the dance group with constantly changing dance routines of different genres (Jazz, Square, Latin-American and Line Dance). Steps, arm-patterns, formations, speed and rhythms were changed every second week to keep them in a constant learning process. The most challenging aspect for them was to recall the routines under the pressure of time and without any cues from the instructor.” These extra challenges are thought to account for the noticeable difference in balance displayed by those participants in the dancing group. Dr Rehfeld concludes with this advice, “I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age.”

In Silver City, there are many opportunities to dance and tap this “fountain of youth”. If you want to bust a move and get your groove on try the 23rd Annual Silver City Blues Festival. Kicking off Friday, May 25, Santa Fe’s The Bus Tapes makes their Silver City debut at Gough Park at 6pm. Be sure to check out all of the great bands, including Saturday night’s headliners, the very danceable, Ghost Town Blues Band from Memphis, Tennessee and Sunday’s great lineup that includes Tony Holiday and the Velvetones with a sweet horn section and Austin, Texas blues prodigies, The Peterson Brothers. Bring your dancing shoes, or kick them off and enjoy the lush green grass of Gough Park. Carb up with many delicious choices from the food court, or check out the many arts activities and artisan vendors planned for this weekend of music, arts and hometown community. More information about the festival and a complete schedule of the performers can be found at www.silvercitybluesfestival.org.  The next time you hear someone tell you, “Dancing keeps me young”, you can shake your head in full agreement and let them know that science backs them up 100%.

The Mimbres Region Arts Council’s mission is to nurture our creative community. The Arts Council’s vision is a thriving community that inspires creativity, enriched education and attracts visitors seeking authentic cultural experiences. For more information visit www.mimbresarts.org or call 575 538-2505. 

Wishing You Well is a weekly community wellness message facilitated by the New Mexico Department of Health’s Southwest Region Health Promotion Team.

Reprinted with permission from the Silver City Daily Press