I recently heard an interesting tidbit: Research shows that regular partner dancing is the most effective activity to ward of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Really!? Above Sudoku!?!
I consulted my all-knowing friend Google, and found that indeed, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York conducted a study demonstrating this. The study spanned 21 years and followed 469 senior citizens, measuring mental acuity and monitoring rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s. They compared both cognitive and physical activities, including regular (3-4 times/week) swimming, cycling, walking, golfing, playing tennis, partner dancing, doing housework, reading, writing, playing cards, and playing musical instruments. The study showed that of all the activities – both cognitive and physical – regular dancing was the most effective for lowering the participants’ chances of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.
This can be interpreted several ways. Partner dancing involves concentration and memorization, decision making, coordination, balance, endurance, strength, and flexibility, for starters. Multiple areas of the brain are simultaneously engaged, the cardiovascular system is challenged, etc. Science can prove the cognitive and physiological benefits of dancing, but what I find so significant is that partner dancing requires a partner. It involves human touch, communication, trust, and teamwork. It’s like one-on-one play for adults.
Here’s my take on it: Health can be managed via a barrage of tests, supplements, medications, devices, and procedures, but I truly believe that for humans to really thrive, we also need each other. Our emotional selves need attention just as our cognitive and physical selves do. We need relationships – touch, communication, trust, and humor. Partner dancing is the perfect synthesis of mental, emotional, and physical therapy.
So, eat your greens, take your vitamins, laugh, play, and hold the hand of someone dear to you. Toss in some music and a little fancy footwork, and you’ll be wowing your great grandchildren with detailed accounts of 1988 decades from now.