Numerous studies have shown the positive impact that exercise can have on cognition and the brains of older adults, and it has been suggested that dance may provide additional cognitive benefits because of factors that other types of exercise may lack, such as cognitive stimulation, emotional impact, or social engagement. Recently, researchers reviewed available studies on the impact of dance on brains and cognition to determine the ways in which dance can impact older adults’ cognition in addition to more widely recognized benefits related to balance, posture, gait, and falls prevention.
Some of the studies reviewed compared the cognitive performance of experienced dancers with non-dancers, and the majority of these showed that the experienced dancers showed better cognitive performance on tests of attention, concentration, and intelligence. Moreover, in a study in which older adults were randomly assigned to a dance group and a non-dance group, the dance group showed significant cognitive improvements in attention, concentration, intelligence, non-verbal learning, and memory after six months of weekly one-hour dance classes. Different studies on the impact of aerobic dance and Turkish folk dance showed that participants in both types of dance courses showed higher quality of life scores and greater happiness than control groups who did not take either class.
Studies of the cognitive impact of dance on individuals with dementia were also reviewed. These showed cognitive improvements in visuospatial ability and planning, as well as improved mood and emotional reactions.
Overall, these studies show a pattern of dance’s benefitting cognition and mood, as well as motor skills performance. By adding dance classes and opportunities to dance to all levels of continuing care in senior living, providers offer residents an enjoyable means of realizing physical, emotional, and mental benefits.