Dance and Alzheimer’s
Over the years, scientists are increasingly discovering the benefits that dance brings to health. Initially it was considered only a physical exercise that helped keep young people in shape. Today, we are witnessing facts of its expansion on health benefits and general well-being such as stress reduction, improved social interactions and an increase on cognitive acuity for all ages, making individuals better and smarter. Many people have enrolled in dance classes and dance for a better and healthier life.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported a 21-year study on the elderly, a study conducted by the Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. The objective of the study was to measure mental acuity in aging, using the method of monitoring rates on dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The study focused on the human mind and surprisingly it was found that none of the physical activities analyzed seemed to offer a slowing of dementia; there were only cardiovascular benefits of the body, but no physical activity really improved the functions of the mind, except for one, the dance. Researchers wanted to see whether physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity and confirmed that there are some activities that had significant positive effects on the mind, while others did not report any positive effects. It has been discovered that attending dance was the only physical activity that offered protection from dementia. Dance was the greatest reducer of the risk of dementia of any other activity studied, with a clear cognitive and physical improvement.
These are the search results.
Reduced risk of dementia
- Read: 35%
- Cycling and swimming: 0%
- Do crossword puzzles at least four days a week: 47%
- Playing golf: 0%
- Dance frequently: 76%
According to the research, ballroom dancing is one of the few physical activities that can delay the onset of dementia. It is a cognitive activity that requires concentration. A neurologist and professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York Dr. Richard Coaten, states that in a ballroom the dance involves precise physical activities, listening to music, remembering the dance steps and taking care of the partner, this involves the mind. The mental challenge of dancing requires a person to think more and it has been found that people use more functions of their brain, becoming cerebrally and physically involved in the action. Dance is the ideal low-impact exercise that flexes clebral functions, increasing flexibility and physical endurance, strengthens the heart and bones, and burns calories. Ballroom dances include a variety of styles, which means that people are not limited to just one style of dance, but learn different ones. What better choice to be healthy and fight Alzheimer’s by dancing?
Even in people with Parkinson’s the connection between the intention to move and start the action and / or complete the action is interrupted due to the dopamine (a neurotransmitter that passes messages from the brain to the muscles) whose levels are lowered.
Movement is no longer automatic and conscious, but more effort may be needed to start or perform a certain action.
The rhythmic and repetitive movements of the dance can help the motor symptoms, such as bradykinesia and akinesia (Bradykinesia is a slowdown in the execution of movements and gestures, while akinesia is a difficulty in starting spontaneous movements), sudden motor block (“Freezing gait” or freezing of the march in which the subject’s feet seem to be glued to the floor), the dance provides a map for the movement, which makes you think about how to move before actually doing it. It can also help train the mind to initiate complete sequences on movement patterns. With time and practice this becomes easier and easier and brings confidence in the individual suffering from this disease, which can be very useful in everyday activities, such as maintaining a steady pace on a crowded street or keeping the movement at the moment of payment at the cash desk of a store. It is as if the rhythm of the dance helped us to rediscover our lost automatic movements.
Some people have discovered that by marching ‘walking’ on music it helps them to overcome freezing gait episodes. If they feel their feet glued to the floor, singing or humming a march tune can help them to unblock their feet and to restart the movement of movement following a rhythm. In some, but not all, dance can also improve tremor and dyskinesia (involuntary movements), providing new maps for synchronization and movement control. This usually happens when these symptoms are not too severe.
Posture can also improve, especially if you perform a warm-up routine using a real bar training, even the back of a stable chair can be used as a bar. Many people with this disease who dance regularly say they notice a significant improvement in balance in posture and flexibility, and movement becomes fun. Some have noticed that the practice of tango steps have improved their balance and mobility.
More research is still needed in this area of therapy, but a study published in 2007 at Washington University in St. Louis, USA to compare two groups of 19 people with Parkinson’s with 21 hours of lessons, an Argentine tango group and a reinforcement class group. In the dance lessons were included stretching exercises and balance exercises, tango steps with footwork and dancing with and without a partner. Strength exercises included sitting exercises, followed by standing exercises with chair support, abdominal strengthening and stretching exercises. Both groups showed significant improvements in functional mobility using standardized tests, but those of the tango group showed greater improvement on balance. Further studies are needed to confirm these preliminary results, but strongly suggests that dance may be useful for people with Parkinson’s.
While dance in general can help in many ways, including the overall quality of life and social integration, surely the movement of tango and ballroom dancing can be particularly useful for balancing, starting the movement following a pattern, learning to move at different speeds following a rhythm where sometimes you even have to walk backwards.
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