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Social Dancing Improves Alzheimer's

21st September 2016

Social Dancing Improves Alzheimer's
Today is National Alzheimer's Day. Alzheimer's is a progressive mental deterioration caused by a degeneration of the brain. Not being able to recognise your family or perform basic day to day tasks yourself is arguably one of the hardest things that a person can handle. Here are a few statistics for you:

  • 850,000 people were diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the UK this year, this is predicted to rise to 1,000,000 by 2025.

  • It doesn't just effect the elderly, 40,000 sufferers are younger people.

  • One in 6 people aged 80 have a memory related illness.

  • 30,000 people per year (50% of attributable deaths) could be saved by treating Alzheimer's earlier.


For centuries people have written about the physical health benefits of dancing. More recently however, research has proven that dancing can reduce stress and increase serotonin levels. These two benefits can be directly linked towards helping Alzheimer's sufferers.

Can dancing help Alzheimer's?

The Albert Einstein College of Medicine led a study to objectively observe which cognitive activities has a beneficial effect on dementia. Surprisingly, none of the of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There was one exception – Dance reduces the risk of dementia!

Results:

Dancing Frequently – 76% reduced risk of dementia.
Cross Word Puzzles – 47%
Reading – 35%
Golf, swimming and cycling – 0%


Why does Dance improve Alzheimer's?

The best advice if you're wishing to improve your mental acuity is to place yourself in new situations. Especially those that require split-second decision making. These activities are better than using rote memory (retracing the same movements and thought patterns).

Dance is perfect for this because it integrates several brain functions at once – Kinaesthetic, rational, musical and emotional which all improve neural connectivity.

Dance prevents Alzheimer's because in every dance class you will be learning new steps and challenging your memory.

What style of dancing is best for Alzheimer's?

Not all styles of dancing will produce the same benefit, especially if the classes are just spent retracing the same memorised pathways. The key to maintaining cognitive abilities is making as many split-second decisions as possible.

Dance classes that have the best effect on an Alzheimer's sufferer are free flowing social dance classes. This is because they involve making more decisions than when dancing a memorised pattern.

For the purposes of cognitive improvement I would recommend taking part in social ballroom classes. It requires a lot of split second decision making in both the lead and follow roles, as well as when interacting with new people.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not demonizing memorised sequence dancing. It can be a great form of stress relief and physical exercise, if an elderly person wants to learn a break dance routine who am I to stand in there way? All dancing is great. But memorised sequence dancing won't provide the same stimulating results as a free flowing foxtrot or waltz.

How can I find a social dance class?

Don't worry, to join a social dance class you don't need to be an expert. There will be plenty of people to help and it's very easy to learn as you go!

Dance Near You has hundreds of instructors teaching thousands of dance classes and social dancing events all across the UK. All you need to do is visit the Dance Near You website, search your post code and contact contact your instructor or book your class there and then!