Read It and Move.
By Niraj Mehta
By Niraj Mehta
Some call it dance.
Some call it a movement meditation.
Some call it presence.
We call it Making Moves.
Can simply moving your body to changing choreographies (regardless of ability) slow down the aging process?
Of course, it can. This is natural immunotherapy. Scientists call it psychoneuroimmunology.
Although we have known this to be true intuitively, the scientific era calls for evidence. Research now demonstrates that two different types of physical exercise, both endurance training and “dancing,” enhance the areas of the brain that generally degenerate with change. However, only dancing lead to behavioral changes with respect to improving balance. The difference is attributed to the additional task of learning the dance routine.
We would add that this is independent of your perceived ability but rather depends on the extent of your involvement and your connection with the music.
A cohort of elderly volunteers was assigned to either a sports group including endurance, strength, and flexibility or a dance group, which included changing choreographies that needed to be memorized across a broad range of genres.
Both groups showed an increase in the area of the brain known as the hippocampus (area susceptible to age-related decline – memory, learning, and balance). Only the dance group showed volume increase in more subfields of the left hippocampus and one subfield of the right hippocampus known as the subiculum. The subiculum is the inferior part of the hippocampus that is thought to play a role in the processing of spatial, mnemonic, and movement information as well as mediating the communication between the hippocampus and the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HPA), which is involved in regulating hormones.
In essence, while both are good, based on the study, changing choreographies is superior to repetitive exercise because it improved balance in addition to memory and learning. In terms of neuroanatomy, this additional clinical benefit is perhaps related to the broader activation of the hippocampus.
For the supposedly rhythmically challenged, have no fear. Movement is innate. Focus on the connection to the music. And let the benefits serve you.