(Photo by: Carl Stanley, White Fox Studios)

Article by: Jane Sandwood, Freelance Writer

Exercise and even dance therapy are key to reducing risks for dementia and related diseases based on recent evidence by scientific studies. Without a doubt, the benefits of exercise on your mental health are numerous, significantly improving moods, creating extra energy and preventing mental illnesses. In addition to physical movement and dancing, dementia can be prevented by stimulating the mind and brain with mental exercises as well as healthy diets and lifestyles.

The Statistics

In the UK, there are 850,000 people affected by dementia and this figure is expected to rise to 2 million by 2051. A person develops the condition every 3 minutes or 225,000 this year alone according to the Alzheimer’s Society. The risk factors for the brain disorder include cardiovascular diseases, poor lifestyle and genetics. These factors are crucial in determining whether a person is likely to contract dementia or not. The fantastic news is that there is something you can do about these risk factors. For example, lifestyles can be modified whether you are smoking, drinking or simply living unhealthily.

Exercise to Avoid Dementia

One of the main components to healthy living is exercise. The NHS UK recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise in a week for adults (19-64) and some form of strength exercises 1-2 times per week. It does not need further scrutiny to understand why exercise is good for you. When you are physically active, blood and oxygen supply to the brain is enhanced contributing to the development of new neurons. It increases your energy, improves sleep and uplifts your mood. Physical activity improves your blood circulation, gets your heart pumping and strengthens cardio functioning. Hence, on a scientific level, exercise is good for your physical health and mobility.

(Photo by Cyril Saulnier on Unsplash)

Its most important benefit, however, is that exercise is linked to emotional wellbeing. Studies show that there is a connection between exercise and mental health. When you exercise, the brain produces and releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that puts you in a good mood. Not only will you feel great after a workout or cardio exercises, your mental condition is also enhanced putting you in high spirits, making you forget problems, clearing cobwebs and invigorating spirits. Improving lifestyle through exercises contribute to preventing the early onset of dementia by enhancing mental health.

Dancing: A Better Alternative

If you love to dance, you are in for a treat. Not only does dancing makes you feel good and gives those rusty bones a chance to stretch, it also improves your mood and alters your mental health. Further still, evidence (New England Journal of Medicine study, 2003) suggests that frequent dancing is the most important activity to ward off dementia reducing the risk by as much as 76%, better than doing crossword puzzles (47%) or reading (35%).

The research looked at 11 activities and found that freestyle dancing is the most beneficial in reducing dementia. Dancing requires constant and rapid decisions forcing your brain to rewire and renew in several ways. The study concluded that sequenced/choreographed dancing and sports (cycling, swimming) had no benefit in reducing the risk of dementia.

Similarly, a 2012 study at Minot University in North Dakota suggests that dancing improves cognitive skills and moods. Other researches point out the benefits of the activity such as mood improvement, stress reduction, memory and spatial recognition development.

The Lesson

Getting the brain worked up is vital to keeping it healthy. On top of physical movement and dancing, nurturing the brain with mental activities can help it stay alive and renew neurons. Reading, doing crosswords, playing video games and learning new things such as languages are stimulating activities for the brain that can reduce your chances of getting dementia in the future.