Is dancing the key to staying young?
Mr. Manning taught dance classes around the world 40 weekends a year until he died. “Dancing is what keeps me young,” he said in a television interview in 2007, just before his 93rd birthday. “If I was not dancing, I don’t think I would be living to be this age.”
For another famous example, you might’ve seen 93-year-old Dick Van Dyke tap dancing on a desk in “Mary Poppins Returns”!
The Science behind it
A 2017 Frontiers in Human Neuroscience analyzed brain scans from subjects who were on average 68 years old and engaged in dance. The study found that the activity increased the size of the hippocampus, the region of the brain used for learning, memory and equilibrium, as well as improving balance.
In a Journal of Aging and Physical Activity study seniors participated in a tango dance programme. The results showed that long-term tango dancing was associated with better balance in older adults. Since falls are the top cause of injury and death among older people, dancing can be a powerful tool in extending one’s life.
Deborah Riley, a professional dancer, has seen how crucial a dance program can be for seniors to fight frailty and memory loss. “The old saying ‘move it or lose it’ is pretty much true,” Riley said. “If you don’t move your feet and your legs, you will lose your ability to do that.” Riley said that music and movement help older people by triggering positive memories, sometimes transforming withdrawn seniors into talkative, engaged individuals.
The mental and physical benefits of dancing aren’t just for the young at heart. “Dancing increases cognitive acuity at all ages. It integrates several brain functions at once — kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional — further increasing your neural connectivity,” said Richard Powers, a social and historic dance instructor at Stanford University.
We best put on our dancing shoes!
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