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Use It or Lose It:  Dancing Makes You Smarter
Richard Powers

For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise.  More recently we've seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.

Then most recently we've heard of anotherbenefit:  Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.  A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one's mind can ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit.  Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities onmental acuity in aging.   Here it is in a nutshell.

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.  They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect.  Other activities had none.

They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments.  And they studied physical activitieslike playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.  There was one important exception:  the only physical activity tooffer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

            Reading - 35% reduced risk of dementia

            Bicycling and swimming - 0%

            Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week - 47%

            Playing golf - 0%

            Dancing frequently - 76%.
That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

Quoting Dr.Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who wrote an accompanying commentary:
"The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use."

And from from the study itself, Dr. Katzman proposed these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitivereserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses.  Like education, participation in some leisure activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving cognitive reserve.

Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed.  If it doesn't need to, then it won't.

Dance Your Way to Good Health (Amy Houston)
Dancing can be a most enjoyable form of exercise. But, what most peopledon't know is that it also has a large number of health benefits. Dancing is a great full out mind and body workout. It can make your body and soul feel good in a way that no other exercise can. The benefits of dancing are like no other. It can help you lose weight, strengthen and tone your body, increase stamina and flexibility, improve balance and posture, and produce confidence among other things.Although dancing may appeal mostly to women, in the last number of years the most popular forms of dance have included males just as much as females. Whether it be dancing the waltz, cha cha, or rhumba - dancing can be a great form of exercise for anyone.

Dancing can be used in place of regular low – impact exercises such as cycling, walking, or aerobics. Depending on the form of the dance,...
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