Line-dancing is better than a walk to fight Alzheimer’s

  • Dancing can help fight off the loss of brainpower as we age
  • After 70, we lose 1% volume in brain region which controls memory every year
  • It is thought learning steps helps defend against memory problems

Pensioners who learn to line dance, take up jazz or square dancing are better protected from memory loss and dementia than those who walk or cycle, a study shows.

Dancing can help fight off the loss of brainpower as we age and brain scans show that it works better over a period of 18 months than spells of cycling or Nordic walking.

German researchers tested the different forms of exercise on 62 people with an average age of 68, measuring the size of the memory centre, called the hippocampus, in their brains.

Dancing can help fight off the loss of brainpower as we age

The traditional exercise group did repetitive activities in 90-minute sessions, while the dance group had a lot more steps and choreography to learn.

In the study, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the dance group were found to have a larger hippocampus, suggesting they were better protected from memory loss and dementia.

It is thought the effort required to learn their steps helped those in the dance group to lose less of the brain volume which is thought to cause memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease. After the age of 70, we lose 1 per cent volume in the region of the brain which controls memory every year. This can lead to forgetfulness, navigation problems and potentially dementia.

However, the hippocampus is one of the few parts which can regenerate and prevent such a decline.

The study’s lead author, Dr Kathrin Rehfeld from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases, said: ‘Everybody would like to live an independent and healthy life, for as long as possible.

‘I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age.’

Dr Louise Walker, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘This study does not show that dancing can prevent dementia but… it shows that physical activity is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of the condition.’