Forget Jogging, Try Dancing, Gardening & Swimming
Forget jogging or running lonely miles and boring, repetitious exercises in crowded gyms. Dancing, swimming, and gardening can provide great health benefits, including keeping the mind sharp.
A recent report published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that the brain scans of older people who burned the most calories exercising had more gray matter in crucial brain areas responsible for memory and cognition. They were also 50% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s within a 5-year period.
Those researchers also said that volunteers who increased the amount they exercised during the 5-year study, also increased their brain matter, and those who had mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s at the beginning of the study lost less brain volume in 5 years if they exercised when compared to study participants who were less active
The research study’s leader Dr. Cyrus Raji said that any type of physical exercise that burns calories, whether walking, dancing, swimming, or gardening was associated with increased gray matter. “Gray matter houses all of the neurons in your brain, so its volume can reflect neuronal health, brain volume,” Dr. Raji said.
Other studies have found that modest amounts of exercise combined with mental stimulation could help keep seniors mentally sharp.
Researchers at the University of California San Francisco studied 126 inactive seniors who admitted their mental skills had deteriorated, and divided them into 4 groups: “All volunteers participated in mental exercises (an intensive brain-stimulating computer game or a control of watching DVDs on art and history) and/or an exercise program, (dance-based aerobics or a control of mild stretching). The seniors did each program for 1 hour 3 days a week for 3 months. At the end of the study, all participants showed improvements in thinking and memory skills regardless of the types of activities they chose.”
And guess what, Dancing appears to be the best exercise to combine physical and mental exercises in an activity that’s fun and lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s.
“We know that exercise is good for the brain,” says fitness expert Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction. “Many studies have shown that the key is engaging in an activity that combines bursts of intense exercise with periods of moderate exercise. Guess what that sounds like? It sounds a lot like dancing,” she said in an interview Wednesday.
“Exercise causes an increase in norepinephrine, and we know norepinephrine can improve memory and cognitive performance,” she said. “In addition, we’re finding out that exercise initiates neurogenesis — making more brain cells and building more neurons.”
A study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that Dance is the most effective way to reduce the risk of dementia.
Seniors who took part in brain-stimulating activities such as reading, writing, and doing puzzles, lowered their risk of dementia by as much as 47%. Although the study found no significant reduction in the risk of dementia among those who exercised regularly in activities such as bicycling, swimming, and team sports, one physical activity, Ballroom Dancing reduced the risk of developing dementia by an astonishing 67%.
Experts believe the Key is a combination of intense mental and physical activity. “Dancing is a complex activity,” said researcher Dr. Joe Verghese of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “A person has to remember the steps and how to dance them, has to move in time with the music, and has to adapt to the actions of your partner.”
The Albert Einstein College study is one of many which suggest that Dancing is good for the brain.
A Korean study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that seniors with metabolic syndrome who learned to dance the cha-cha, a popular ballroom dance, improved their memory and cognitive function within 6 months when compared to controls. And a Canadian study found that seniors who danced tango 2X a week improved their scores on cognitive tests.
One does not have to be physically fit to dance, says Dr. Peeke. “If you can walk, you can dance,” she says, noting that most forms of dance are even good for people who have arthritis. “Most dancing is not hard on the joints and can reduce pain.
“Dance could be the perfect exercise for both middle-aged and senior citizens,” Dr. Peeke said.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively and Dance
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