Multiyear Square Dancing Is Associated With Superior Mental Processing Capacity But Not Memory in Middle-Aged and Older Chinese Women: A Cross-Sectional Propensity Score Matching Analysis

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Background: Evidence suggests the importance of physical activity and social engagement in cognitive preservation. Group-based dancing combining exercise and prosocial features may generate physical and cognitive benefits. Objectives: To investigate the association between multiyear habitual square dancing and domain-specific cognitive function, and assess the relative importance and joint impact of physical activity and social activity on cognition. Methods: Using the cross-sectional propensity score matching method, the study compared the mental status, episodic memory, and overall cognitive performances of 145 amateur female square-dancing participants (aged ≥45 y) to their sociodemographic- and health-status–matched 222 nondancing counterparts, selected from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study. Results: The authors found a positive association between multiyear square dancing (average 8 y) and overall cognitive performances (mean difference = 2.84; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.65 to 4.02), which was apparent in processing capacity (2.29; 95% CI, 1.51 to 3.07) but not in memory (0.55; 95% CI, −0.13 to 1.23). The hypothesized synergic effect of physical activity and social activity on cognition was only observed in group-based exercises embodying these 2 components simultaneously. Conclusions: Long-term square dancing as one type of physically and socially engaging activities may preserve cognition. Future longitudinal and interventional studies are needed to further clarify the causal relationship.

Liao is with the Department of Medical Statistics, School of Public Health, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China. Liao and Xu are with the Sun Yat-sen Global Health Institute, School of Public Health, Institute of State Governance, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China. Yang is with the Institute of Education, University College London, London, UK.

Xu (roman.xu@gmail.com) is corresponding author.
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