Such was the question posed by Richard Powers in an article titled, “Use It Or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter.” In his article he references a study from the New England Journal of Medicine that “wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.”
According to Powers, “They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.
One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind. There was one important exception: the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.”
Powers also mentions another important finding from the study: “Do it often. Seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a measurably lower risk of dementia than those who did the puzzles once a week. If you can’t take classes or go out dancing four times a week, then dance as much as you can. More is better.”