Should you add a little tango to your life for brain health?

 
By Melissa Blouin • Published: June 15th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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Whether you like to cha-cha, boogie or shake your groove thing, dance may help keep your brain in shape as well as your body.

Imaging studies have identified regions of the brain that contribute to dance learning and performance. Some of these regions are engaged in other forms of physical activity, but some are specific to dance, which requires participants to coordinate their movements in time to music.

A small study at Minot State University in North Dakota showed that people who took a Latin-style dance class known as Zumba developed improved visual recognition and decision-making. A 2003 study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, looked at the exercise habits of a group of older adults, and found that out of 11 different types of exercise, only dance was related to a reduction in the risk of dementia.

Dancing offers a triple threat to combat brain degeneration: It involves physical effort, mental effort and social interaction. All three can have positive effects on the brain. Benefits can range from improved memory to stronger connections between neurons.

Dance has also been used as therapy for people with brain-related movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. It occurs when cells that produce the chemical dopamine in the brain, which help control movement and coordination, begin to die off. Studies have shown that people with Parkinson’s can have reduced show fewer symptoms when they are presented with rhythms and asked to move to the beat.

So the next time you have a chance to get down and boogie-oogie-oogie, resist the urge to sit this one out. It might benefit your brain as well as your body.