According to a 2015 study out of the UK’s University of Brighton, you can burn upwards of 300 calories in just a half-hour of dancing. If you compare that to numbers posed by Harvard Medical School, that makes vigorous dancing a more effective calorie burner than swimming or even running at a slower pace. But according to a new study of aging adults published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, there’s an added benefit to dancing as exercise that extend beyonds the enhanced fat burn, and it’s something that proponents of aerobic-dance classes such as Zumba may already know. The researchers say that dancing more will help bolster your brain health and specifically sharpen your memory well into old age.
To arrive at their conclusion, the research team from Rutgers University assembled a group of African-American volunteers, all over the age of 60, and divided them into two groups—one that led a sedentary lifestyle, and the other which indulged in two hour-long aerobic dance classes every week for 20 weeks. Some of the participants underwent brain scans, which focused on their brain’s medial temporal lobes (which contains memory), and all of them completed a series of cognitive tests along the way.
The study revealed that the dancers had a different brain activity—what the scientists would describe as more youthful brain activity—than those who didn’t. “The exercisers performed better than before on a test of their ability to learn and retain information and apply it logically in new situations,” explained The New York Times, paraphrasing Mark Gluck, Ph.D., a professor and the lab director at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers. “This kind of agile thinking involves the medial temporal lobe, and tends to decline with age. But the older exercisers scored higher than at the start, and those whose brains displayed the most new interconnections now outperformed the rest.”
This isn’t the first study to shed light on the health benefits of exercise on an aging brain, of course, but it’s a breakthrough in helping us understand how certain types of exercise push the brain to rewire the brain’s ability to stay more vigorous and effective.
For further ways to increase your brainpower, read on, because we’ve included some of the worst foods you can eat that are associated with cognitive decline. To stay sharp, clear your plate of these items ASAP. And for more ways to keep fit and improve your cognitive prowess, consider trying The One Workout That Drives 29 Percent More Fat Loss, Says Science.
According to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, young men with the highest intake of foods that are high in trans fats performed the worst on cognitive tests. It’s one of many studies that show how the consumption of trans fats are linked to poorly functioning memory.
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In a 2017 study of rats published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, researchers discovered that a short-term diet high in refined sugars impacted more than 200 sequenced genes that are similar to those in humans in the brain’s hippocampus, the area in the medial temporal lobes that’s crucial to memory. And for more healthy living advice you can apply to your life every day, make sure you’re up-to-speed on the One Major Side Effect of Sitting on the Couch Too Much, Says New Study.
According to a study published in the journal Hypertension, the titular condition—often brought on by eating too many salt- and sodium-packed foods—can restrict blood flow to the brain and impair memory, focus, and organizational skills.
Studies have shown that alcohol dependence can harm your brain. In one study published in the journal Alcohol Research—Clinical Reviews, doctors using functional magnetic resonance imaging tested chronic alcoholics and discovered deficits in areas of the brain involved in verbal learning, processing speed, attention, problem-solving, and impulsivity.
A study published in European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences found that aspartame, the artificial sweetener commonly used in sugar-free drinks, can have a negative effect on memory. And for more on the connection between your body and your mind, don’t miss The Single Most Effective Way to Work Out Every Day, Say Psychologists.