A new study has been done comparing the neurological effects of dances like country dancing with other forms of physical activity like walking, stretching, and other activities. It shows that things such as social dance are different because of the demands it places on the mind and body could possibly be slowing neurological changes. The study shows that at the age of 40 people begin to perform worse on tests of processing speed than those who are younger, with effects continuing to accelerate over the decades. In the study by the University of Illinois, they recruited 174 people in their 60’s and 70’s with no form of cognitive impairment. They were split into 3 separate groups, the first group did a program of brisk walking 3 times a week, the second group did gentle stretching and balance training, and the third group was assigned to learn to dance, taking choreography classes 3 times a week. After 6 months, the volunteers returned to the lab and got the same brain scans as before. The scans showed that the first 2 groups deterioration in the white matter of the brain, especially the older volunteers. The third group who was receiving dance training did show improvement though. The dancers now had denser white matter in their Fornix, the part of the brain involved with processing speed and memory. Although exercise is important, it may be more beneficial to the brain and lessen deterioration of the brain to take up some form of social dance.
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