Recently, some of my close friends and family have been affected by Alzheimer's, and it's devastating. I noticed my own memory has been challenged since giving birth, and it scares the s&*t out of me. "Mommy brain" is no joke. In fact, I even had a friend joke that having conversations with me was akin to a game of "madlibs," so I decided to look into the best ways to stimulate my brain and develop new neural pathways. And guess what? It turns out one of the BEST ways to make ourselves smarter is by DANCING!
A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one's mind by dancing can ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit. Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages. You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging. But i you haven't, here it is in a nutshell:
The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. The study wanted 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.
They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. They also studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.
One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind. There was one important exception: the ONLY physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.
Reading - 35% reduced risk of dementia
Bicycling and swimming - 0%
Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week - 47%
Playing golf - 0%
Dancing frequently - 76%.
That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical. and then, after digging a little deeper, discovered that Alzheimer's now accounts for over 25% of all deaths in the US. To think that we can help stave off the effects and strengthen our neural pathways with something as fun and functional as dance, is incredible. I have to say, that during and after birth, dance has never felt better. I am instantly more focused and clear after teaching a class or private session, and, to think that I can use this skill and this passion to help in the fight against Alzheimer's has motivated me to get behind the cause.
I want to work to find the answer to eradicating this disease for good.