Dementia – a cluster of symptoms associated with brain decline – mostly affects people over the age of 65 but it is not a natural part of the ageing process. The symptoms are often subtle at first but become severe in the later stages. The decline often culminates in a person becoming detatched from their surroundings, unable to retain vital memories.
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According to Dr MacSweeney, exercise has shown to increase brain volume in cognitively normal older adults.
Studies have linked brain shrinkage with a higher risk of memory decline and degenerative conditions.
Exercise also decreases oxidative stress and improves respiration and glucose metabolism – factors that may influence your risk, noted Dr MacSweeney.
“In addition, exercise has been shown to promote the survival of nerve receptors in the brain and support the clearance of toxic Aß amyloid plaques and reduce harmful hyperphosphorylated tau, both of which accumulate in the brain and cause Alzheimer’s disease,” she said.
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Citing evidence-based research, Dr MacSweeney advises exercising vigorously at least four times a week for 20 minutes, or moderately five times a week for 30 minutes, to help to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
“Switch one or two of your weekly workouts to dancing for optimal cognitive benefits,” she said.
Dr MacSweeney added: “Learning and remembering new steps in a dance class activates many neural pathways in the brain, helping to keep it strong, active and healthy.”
In fact, research published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience suggests dancing may reverse the signs of ageing in the brain.
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The traditional fitness training program conducted mainly repetitive exercises, such as cycling or Nordic walking, but the dance group were challenged with something new each week.
These extra challenges are thought to account for the noticeable difference in balance displayed by those participants in the dancing group.
In her concluding remarks, Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, said: “I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age.”