Dr Michael Mosley: The ‘fun’ activity linked to a 76% lower risk of dementia

Dr Michael Mosley on the importance of routine for sleep

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“The most important thing is it’s fun,” added the podcast host. The activity recommended by the doctor is simple and enjoyable – dancing. Everyone can do a little “shimmy” from the comfort of their home. Plus, a little bit of dancing on a daily basis can go a long way.

While exercise is known to cut the risk of cognitive decline, dancing could be especially potent.

“Frequent dancing was associated with a 76 percent reduced risk of developing dementia,” said Dr Mosley.

The doctor even got to see the beneficial effects of the activity on memory first-hand.

He said: “A few years ago, I was involved in an experiment with Coventry University where we ran tests on amateur dancers before and after a vigorous 30-minute salsa dancing session. 

“Impressively, their spatial working memory, their ability to hold visual information in the brain and then replicate it increased by 18 percent along with more modest improvements in other areas of cognitive function.”

One of the reasons why dancing could aid your brain health is its ability to increase the volume of your hippocampus.

In case you’re not aware, the hippocampus describes the area of the brain that deals with spatial memory.

Dr Mosley added: “Dancing has also been shown to improve white matter, the number of nerve cells in areas of the brain associated with processing speed and the memory. 

“And again, these white matter changes were not seen in groups doing other forms of exercise.”

The podcast host invited Dr Julia Christensen from the Max Planck Institute in Germany to get to the root of dancing and brain benefits.

The guest revealed that dancing is even backed by research. She said: “There are some longitudinal studies that suggest that people who do recreational dancing throughout the years will have less risk of developing dementia and heart disease in old age.

“They will also have generally better markers of health.”

When it comes to the science behind dancing, the activity has been shown to trigger new connections in your brain.

Dr Christensen said: “It spurs neuroplasticity and that goes with improvements in our memory.

“[This] might be related to why longitudinal studies seem to suggest that dancing regularly protects us against cognitive decline and developing dementia in old age.”

The best part is that you only need to do a few minutes of dancing a day.

The guest expert suggested opting for five to 10 minutes of the “fun” activity daily.

“I think it’s very much about fitting dance into your everyday life,” she noted.

Dr Mosley added: “Dancing really is one of the best ways to keep your body and mind fit and healthy.

“It’s just one thing you can do today and your heart, your brain and even your waistline will thank you.”

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