The research project followed subjects for 21 years and studied the effects of various activities (both cognitive and physical) on the brain. The measure the researchers chose was the level of development of dementia and/or Alzheimer's disease in the subjects.
The recreational activities studied included the following:
-writing as a hobby
-doing cross-word puzzles
Of the cognitive activities doing cross-word puzzles reduced the onset of signs of dementia by around 30%. Of the physical activities monitored, DANCING FREQUENTLY (up to four days per week) reduced the onset of dementia in subjects by 76% percent!!
Commenting on the study, Dr. Joseph Coyle, Psychiatrist at the Harvard Medical School, observed that the mind is plastic and can create new circuits based on use. The centers of the brain involved in an activity create new circuits when necessary. If there is no demand placed upon them they do not.
If we depend upon habitual patterns of thinking and living our lives we loose this plasticity. On the other hand dancing uses many areas of the brain. Dancing requires us to constantly make rapid decisions, to remember, to adjust rhythm and timing, to adapt the quality of the movement. We learn to think with our whole body and this keeps our brains, like our muscles, flexible and young.
FREESTYLE dancing, that requires one the make split second decisions regarding different patterns of movement, speed, direction and partner dancing are particularly useful. The partner who follows benefits the most!
So if you don't know how to Tango it's time to learn.