One of the many sights that inspired Prince Siddhartha Shakya to leave his throne and seek enlightenment was the sight of an old, crooked man walking past the road. Human existence is temporary and aging is a part of it; something inseparable. And just like flying, reversing old age has been an obsession of mankind.
This is also largely because none of us like our own physical appearance much, anyway. And seeing age ruin whatever little we did like, slowly in small gulps, is a kind of negativity that none of us want in our lives.
Furthermore, there is a constant and gradual debilitation that slowly tightens its noose around our necks with age. Our physical health and abilities, and slowly our memory and cognitive reasoning abilities, deteriorate and start fading away as we try to reconcile the grays on our heads with our once youthful face.
The only effective way of truly living the metaphor, “Age is a number” is exercise. Physical exercise and yoga and staying active are what a routine check-up is to a car engine. You take care of your machinery and they serve you better, for a while longer.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience is an open source journal on health. It states how regular physical exercise can control and even reverse the debilitating effects of aging in senior citizens. So which is the most beneficial among physical activities?
The answer: Dancing.
In a comparative study, dancing was found to have more profound effects on the brain w.r.t endurance training, said Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany.
The difference which was crucial was the fact that dancing has a large role played by memory; memorization of moves in particular styles of dancing made it such an engaging activity.
The researchers chose a group of 52 senior citizens to study and included some in a control group sport. The aim of the dance camp was to cover different styles so that the patients could memorize new moves. The sport used as a control group was flexibility-endurance training.
The part of the brain that is the indicative center of geriatric decline, is the hippocampus. This is where symptoms of debilitation appear for scientist to observe.
What the research saw, is that repetitive activities, like cycling and running or jogging, is more related to muscle memory that actual brain-related activity. Dancing, especially when the choreographer makes it a point to mix things up regularly, not only makes the sport enjoyable, but also very difficult to remember; and consequently, an exercise that helps memory and brain activity.
Extrapolating from this, the hippocampus in the dance groups saw increase in volume which is a sign of reversed aging. Dr Rehfeld states how jazz, Latin and other genres of music were part of the dance routines that were taught to the group. This is because these genres come with complex hand formations and foot movements; things that take years to learn anyway.
The greatest argument against this was that what about the people who have no knack for it/sense of rhythm? What about the people who have refused to dance all their lives?
Dr Rehfeld concluded how losing oneself to music anyway, is enough for people who never danced in their life. Music as it is, is a holistically healing experience and has been a mainstay of many oriental religions along with Christianity too.
Remember Bea from Dance with Me?
Take her as a role model. Dance, get into the groove and enjoy yourself. You might just get some more time on this lovely Earth in exchange.