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Dancing may bolster cognitive function in elderly

10 Jan 2021
Keep the brain active through dancing

For older adults, dancing may improve global cognitive function, although it has little effect on complex attention, learning, and memory, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis.

The meta-analysis included 11 studies with 1,412 participants aged 60–80 years in total. Seven studies involved healthy participants, while the remaining four comprised those with mild cognitive impairment.  Dance interventions varied in frequency (1–3×/week), time (35–60 minutes), duration (3–12 months), and type (ie, video game dance, dance movement therapy, or ballroom, aerobic, or folk dance).

Compared with comparators (ie, waitlist, socialization, health education), dance conferred a substantial benefit for global cognitive function (assessed using the Mini Mental State Examination; mean difference [MD], 1.58, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.21–2.95; p=0.02) with moderate-certainty evidence.

However, there were no important effects observed on the Wechsler Memory Test for learning and memory (MD, 3.02, 95 percent CI, 1.38–4.65; low-certainty evidence), the Trail Making Test-A for complex attention (MD, 3.07, 95 percent CI, −0.81 to 6.95; high-certainty evidence), and the Trail Making Test-B for executive function (MD, −4.12, 95 percent CI, −21.28 to 13.03; moderate-certainty evidence).

In subgroup analyses, dance did not consistently yield greater effects in older adults with MCI.

Evidence was uncertain for language, and none of the studies evaluated social cognition or perceptual–motor function.

More studies are warranted to determine the optimal dose of dance beneficial for the ageing brain and if dancing produces greater cognitive effects than other types of physical activity and exercise.

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