The Soap Box Step
You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
You walk into a room and forget why you are there. You retrace your steps, hoping the reason comes flooding back into your brain. Or, you forget where you parked in the supermall parking lot, and go up and down the aisles clicking your remote control, maybe hitting the “panic” button to try to locate your car.
These are normal “brain clouds” (my phrase) that anyone of any age can encounter. But what happens when you think your memory is really slipping? You can’t remember the date or your husband’s name, or you have trouble balancing your checkbook. Well, there’s good news!
Many studies have shown that diet and exercise can not only improve brain function, but something as insignificant as a 20 minute walk three times a week can actually increase the size of the hippocampus. This small part of the brain plays a major role in the consolidation of information from short-term to long-term memory, and in spatial navigation. Not only walking, but dancing has been shown to improve memory as well as overall health. There has been some promising research in this area, according to Rita Beckford, M.D., a family doctor and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. For instance, a 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that ballroom dancing at least twice a week made people less likely to develop dementia. Research also has shown that some people with Alzheimer’s disease are able to recall forgotten memories when they dance to music they used to know. Benefits abound. Like other moderate, low-impact, weight bearing activities, such as brisk walking, cycling or aerobics, dancing can help:
- strengthen bones and muscles without hurting your joints
- tone your entire body
- improve your posture and balance, which can prevent falls
- increase your stamina and flexibility
- reduce stress and tension
- build confidence
- provide opportunities to meet people
- ward off illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease,osteoporosis, and depression
Ballroom dance, line dancing, and other kinds of social dance are most popular among people 50 and older. That’s because they allow people to get together and interact socially, while getting some exercise and having fun at the same time. Dancers who have lost partners can come alone and meet new people, since many classes don’t require that you attend as a couple.
Recently, ABC World News featured a spot on the aging brain, and recent studies that show the middle-aged brain may be more powerful and at its peak than brains of young adults. In fact, studies have shown that our verbal skills do not peak until our 60s or 70s!
Eating a diet rich in fish, vegetables and fruits, nuts and whole grains can help stave off memory deterioration. But low-impact, high-social value exercise such as dancing can keep us young and engaged, and learning late in life.
Check out this link to ABC’s story: