Get your groove on and improve your brain power


I went along to a different line dancing class this week. It was great fun and full of enthusiastic people, good tunes (a mix of fast, modern songs and then the old-time country classics) and quick complex dances.

The joy of it was that the dances pushed me and I really had to work hard – my old class had gotten a little easy.

I danced next to a lady – who must have been 80 years old – to Lady Gaga’s Pokerface!

It was brilliant and inspiring. I’d love to be doing that when I am 80. I am going to add that to my ‘plan’.

I started to think about dance being more than just an enjoyable activity to experience with friends or your partner; but as a way to keep you young, mentally ‘with it’ and fit!

Then today I read an article about how dance can improve the way your brain functions and reduce the risk of dementia.

The number of people suffering with Dementia is set to double in the next 20 years. I talk about this regularly with some of my older clients – how they are keeping active and maintaining their mental sharpness.

The 21-year study, led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City of senior citizens, 75 and older, was undertaken to measure mental acuity in aging and to do this they monitored rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The study aimed to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.  They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect.  Other activities had none. One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities they tested appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  Of course, there will be cardiovascular benefits, but the focus of this study was the mind.

The one exception was undertaking frequent dancing. Dancing reduced risk of dementia by 76%, whilst Reading reduced this by 35%, doing Crossword Puzzles (at least 4 times a week) reduced this the risk by 47% and Golf by 0%.

My Dad will be pleased – he does the crosswords, rather than golf!

So how and why dancing? Well, dancing helps in variety of ways:

Quick decisions and intelligence

Intelligence – we all know the saying – ‘use it or lose it’!

Dancing is fast paced and means making quick decisions. It requires instant responses to questions like Which way to turn? What speed to move your body? What do I do if miss a step/get out of rhythm?

Therefore, dancing is an excellent way to maintain and enhance your intelligence.

Muscle Memory

Part of dancing in a class is you start by ‘learning’ the dance. You start by walking through movements slowly and repeating this. Every individual probably then attaches each move to a cue – be this the step before or the music.

Research shows that this slow walk through and memorising a dance lessens the conflict between the cognitive and physical aspects of dance and that this can help improve muscle memory.

It can slow down aging and boost memory

It’s a well-accepted fact that as we get older brain cells die and mental paths become weaker. Nouns, like names of people, are harder to remember because there is only one mental pathway that leads us to this stored information in our brain and this pathway could be lost.

If you work on learning new things, like dance, you can work on building different mental routes and many paths in your brain. So if one path is lost as a result of age, you have an alternative path that you can use to access stored information and memories.

So, in conclusion….Get your groove on and dance!

Dance can be a great way to maintain and improve many of your brain functions as well as exercise and ….. its fun!

With dancing we get to use several brain functions at once; rational, musical, kinesthetic, and emotional.

So, dance now, dance often, and then we can all get together and dance to Lady Gaga when we are 80!