The short answer is YES! It is common knowledge that aerobic exercise and resistance training can both help prevent decline in mental function as we age – but there is something particularly potent about dance exercise.
A recent study at Colorado State University looked at 174 people in their 60’s and 70’s and divided them into four groups who met three times a week for six months.
One group did brisk walking.
Another group walked and took a dietary supplement.
A third group did stretching and balance exercise.
The fourth group learned new dances in hour long group dance sessions.
Researchers did scans to examine all participants brain pre and post study. They found that people who did brisk walking slowed down the breakdown of the white matter in their brains.
But only one group significantly improved the amount of white matter in the fornix of their brains – the dancers. White matter is found in the deeper tissues of the brain and contains nerve fibers coated with a myelin sheath (like insulation covering wires)
The fornix of the brain is located in an area of the brain called the limbic system and is involved in cognition, memory, emotion and sexual responses.