It is no big secret that exercise can offer excellent health benefits to anyone and everyone regardless of age, gender, race, weight, or any other classification. Even people who are of excellent health might find greater benefits from a little more exercise.
A new study, however, finds that the aging generation might find that exercise offers even more benefit in terms of brain health. Published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the study authors explain that physical activity does not just improve joint, heart, muscle, and lung health, but also brain health.
Dr. Kathrin Rehfled, of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, notes, “Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity.”
The study observed two groups of 26 volunteers with an average advanced age of 68 over an 18-month program which had them in a weekly dance class or attending endurance and flexibility workouts. The dance class exposed the volunteers to new routines evry week—Line dancing, jazz, etc—but the traditional fitness class basically just performed the same workouts week in and week out (cycling, walking, etc).
Rehfeld continues, “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.”
Now, it is important to note that both groups did see a market improvement in the hippocampus region of the brain. This is the same area where we find conditions like depression and Alzheimer’s developing. However, this brain region is also commonly attributed to memory, learning, and spatial navigation—things associated with physical balance—and that is where researchers noted a difference between the dance group and the traditional exercise group.
The lead study author goes on to say, ” In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (that included dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that leads to noticeable behavioural changes in terms of improved balance.”