One Incredible Side Effect of Dancing More Every Day, Says New Study
According to a 2015 study out of the UK's University of Brighton, you can burn upwards of 300 calories in just a half-hour of dancing. If you compare that to numbers posed by Harvard Medical School, that makes vigorous dancing a more effective calorie burner than swimming or even running at a slower pace. But according to a new study of aging adults published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, there's an added benefit to dancing as exercise that extend beyonds the enhanced fat burn, and it's something that proponents of aerobic-dance classes such as Zumba may already know. The researchers say that dancing more will help bolster your brain health and specifically sharpen your memory well into old age.
To arrive at their conclusion, the research team from Rutgers University assembled a group of African-American volunteers, all over the age of 60, and divided them into two groups—one that led a sedentary lifestyle, and the other which indulged in two hour-long aerobic dance classes every week for 20 weeks. Some of the participants underwent brain scans, which focused on their brain's medial temporal lobes (which contains memory), and all of them completed a series of cognitive tests along the way.
The study revealed that the dancers had a different brain activity—what the scientists would describe as more youthful brain activity—than those who didn't. "The exercisers performed better than before on a test of their ability to learn and retain information and apply it logically in new situations," explained The New York Times, paraphrasing Mark Gluck, Ph.D., a professor and the lab director at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers. "This kind of agile thinking involves the medial temporal lobe, and tends to decline with age. But the older exercisers scored higher than at the start, and those whose brains displayed the most new interconnections now outperformed the rest."
This isn't the first study to shed light on the health benefits of exercise on an aging brain, of course, but it's a breakthrough in helping us understand how certain types of exercise push the brain to rewire the brain's ability to stay more vigorous and effective.
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