In their study, they prove that 2 different types of physical activity – dancing and endurance training – both increase the brain’s area that declines over time as we age. But, only dancing has proved to be effective when it comes to changes in behavior due to the noticeable improvements in balance.
The researchers selected 52 elderly volunteers aged 63-80 years for the purpose of the study. Then, they divided them randomly into two groups, one group was assigned to join dance classes, and the other group joined the sports control group.
The dance group took dance lessons with a constant change of choreography which moves they were asked to memorize. The program for the sports group, on the other hand, consisted of strength training, endurance training, and flexibility training.
The hippocampus area of the brain which is the most susceptible to decline because of the aging processes has increased in both groups. This area of the brain is also responsible for memory, balance, as well as learning.
But, only volunteers in the dance group had an increased volume of other subparts in the left hippocampus. Moreover, only dancing had increased the volume of one part in the right hippocampus called the subiculum.
This study proved that dancing, especially when followed by a change in choreography, is indeed superior to repetitive physical activities such as walking or cycling.
Dr. Rehfeld further explains that they provided the participants in the dance group with different music genres. They changed the dance routine every second week and they introduced new arm-patterns, formations, steps, rhythms and different speed levels.