According to a study published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, dancing can reverse signs of aging in the brain. The study also found that dancing showed greater results than other types of physical activity.
Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld, the lead author of the study, explained that “Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity. In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.”
The subjects in the study had an average age of 68 and were split off into two separate groups, one to test the effects of dancing and the other endurance training.
“We tried to provide our seniors in the dance group with constantly changing dance routines of different genres (Jazz, Square, Latin-American and Line Dance). Steps, arm-patterns, formations, speed, and rhythms were changed every second week to keep them in a constant learning process. The most challenging aspect for them was to recall the routines under the pressure of time and without any cues from the instructor,” Rehfeld said.
“Right now, we are evaluating a new system called “Jymmin” (jamming and gymnastics). This is a sensor-based system which generates sounds (melodies, rhythm) based on physical activity. We know that dementia patients react strongly when listening to music. We want to combine the promising aspects of physical activity and active music making in a feasibility study with dementia patients. I believe that everybody would like to live an independent and healthy life, for as long as possible. Physical activity is one of the lifestyle factors that can contribute to this, counteracting several risk factors and slowing down age-related decline. I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age,” Rehfeld added.
A different study conducted at McGill University’s Psychology Department has shown that music is actually more effective than drugs for a variety of different conditions. The study found that music can release natural chemicals and pain relievers in the brain that work quicker and better than drugs do. Prof. Levitin, one of the study’s main researchers explained how music can trigger chemical processes in the brain that have healing effects.
“We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a healthcare role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics. But even more importantly, we were able to document the neurochemical mechanisms by which music has an effect in four domains: management of mood, stress, immunity and as an aid to social bonding,” Levitin said.
The researchers found that music can release dopamine and opioids, cortisol, serotonin, and oxytocin. When these chemicals are released, they can improve motivation, increase pleasure derived from certain activities, which can help with eating disorders and other issues. These natural chemicals can also help with stress, social anxiety and improve immunity. Dr. Francis Chandra commented on the study, saying that these findings could encourage people to limit their dependence on other drugs.
“We know music facilitates active neurochemical processes in a symphony of opioids which pharmaceutical intervention has been unable to match. We’ve had residents where we could reduce psychotropic drugs or have them come off, and we could see benefits to staff with improvements in morale and engagement,” he said.
In one study, it was found that patients who listened to music before surgery had lower anxiety levels than people who were given anti-anxiety drugs like Valium or Xanax.
“The reviewed evidence does provide preliminary support for the claim that neurochemical changes mediate the influence of music on health. Music is among those lifestyle choices that may reduce stress, protect against disease, and manage pain,” the study said.
Most of the popular medications on the market today are simply catalysts to unlock the power chemicals that are already stored in our brains. To find natural ways to unlock these chemicals, can allow us to gain the benefits of those chemicals, without putting big pharma toxins into our bodies.
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