NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – For many people, dancing is an enjoyable hobby and a way to stay fit.
New research is looking into whether the activity can boost the brain health of older adults, CBSN New York’s Kiran Dhillon reports.
Step by step, some senior citizens are learning new dance moves. Sonia Movsas, 83, is one of them. Her mother suffered with memory and thinking problems. So when she heard about a new study looking at whether dancing can improve the brain function of older adults, she knew she wanted to participate.
“It’s a terrible thing for a human being to forget who they are and where they are,” she said.
More than 30 older adults at risk of dementia are taking part in the study at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. For six months, twice a week, one group takes dance classes. The other walks on a treadmill. Participants undergo a battery of cognitive tests and imaging.
Dr. Helena Blumen says there is already evidence that exercise can have a positive effect on the brain, but dancing could have additional benefits.
“So you dance. That’s the aerobic part. But you also dance with other people so you socialize with them, which also has been shown to be effective. And you also learn new steps, which is cognitively demanding,” Dr. Blumen said.
The study participants say they’re eager to see if dancing can help their brain health, because it’s a worry for many of them.
“I see what dementia does to people and I wouldn’t want to it to my family,” said study participant Marlene Renzulli-Taffe.
After just a few months of dancing regularly, Mosvas says she sees a difference.
“I’m very bad at remembering people’s names. It’s not just when I’m older, I’ve always been that way. And I know all [the other participants’] names,” she said.
Researchers say their study could eventually inspire senior homes to incorporate dance classes.