Can Belly Dance Prevent Alzheimers?
When I first got up the courage to start belly dancing, I was expecting to be the only fat old broad in a class of nubile young women. So I was amazed to find the majority of the class were over thirty - and many of them were much closer to my age (over fifty). Which is a great thing, because I think belly dance is the ideal exercise for older women, especially those who haven't danced before. It's gentler on the body than most other kinds of dancing, so you don't need lots of flexibility or strength to get started. And now, there's even evidence that belly dancing can help prevent dementia!
Exercises to Keep your Brain Young
It used to be thought that as we got older, mental capacity naturally deteriorated. Studies have now proved the brain can go on making new pathways to replace damaged ones, if it's stimulated the right way. That's great news for dementia sufferers, but it's important news for everyone, because we can use the same steps to prevent damage, and keep our brains young and keen. To keep our brain renewing itself, we just have to give it the right stimulus and the right nutrients. But what is the right stimulus?
Perhaps this wonderful lady will give you a clue...
90 years old and still dancing - from Jean's Golden Girls, Utah
OK, so she's not a belly dancer - but she puts such a smile on my face, I couldn't resist. Besides, the message is the same - dancing is the perfect exercise!
Exercise is a great stimulus to keep your brain young, but it has to be the right kind of exercise - and we often choose the wrong kind. Many of us like walking, running or swimming precisely because those activities allow us to relax our mind, or think about other things. But to keep your brain young, that kind of exercise is completely useless. You need exercise that engages your brain and your memory as well as your body.
Gym classes such as aerobics, step, body pump and aquarobics all demand that you concentrate on the exercise - no daydreaming possible! But dancing or T'ai Chi really hit the jackpot, because you not only have to learn new moves and follow the instructor, you also have to memorize steps and reproduce them in sequence.
Even if you're already less mobile, there are exercises you can do. Talk to your local belly dance teacher about tailoring the classes to suit you: it may be a simple case of having one or two private lessons to get you started, then you can join the regular class and work at your own pace.
Or learn to play the drum. We may not think of playing music as exercise, but it meets the criteria of engaging the muscles and the brain at the same time.