Neurogenesis and Dance


In my last series of posts, I discussed how exercise works to increase BDNF and promote the health benefits that come along with it. In doing so, I referred primarily to moderate aerobic exercise. However, I did not refer to any specific type of aerobic exercise and so today I will discuss social dancing.

Dancing can be considered both anaerobic and aerobic, so what are some of the typical Benefits:

  • physical exercise
  • stress reduction
  • increased serotonin level
  • increased endorphins


Dancing and Alzheimer’s: However, there is far more to dancing than meets the eye. A major study by the New England Journal of Medicine has added to the growing evidence that stimulating one’s mind can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit.

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, while other activities had none.

One significant surprise in this study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There was, however, one important exception: the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing!

Sample Activities

  • Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia
  • Bicycling and swimming – 0%
  • Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47%
  • Playing golf – 0%
  • Frequent Dancing- 76% reduction!

Social dancing: In addition to the typical benefits mentioned above, research studies have shown that through social dance we can boost our intelligence by exercising our cognitive processes. A prime example is social dancing which requires us to make hundreds of split-second evaluations and decisions, engaging in social dance is a lot of mental exercise!  And it helps us maintain and sharpen our intellect as we age, by stimulating neurogenesis and neural plasticity!

Until next week …… Stay tuned!

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