Forget growing old gracefully. New research suggests that you can party your way to good brain health ? and that pulling out your freshest dance moves could be the secret to defying time.

For many years scientists thought that once the brain was fully formed and at capacity that was it, from then on it slowly degenerated. ?It was widely believed that, over the course of your life you lost brain cells, called neurons, and there wasn?t much you could do about it,? says Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research. ?Now we know that?s not the case. Modern research shows that throughout your life the brain has the ability to adapt and regenerate ? all it needs is the right environment.?

It seems that a dance workout could be the perfect setting.

?Getting your groove on is not just great for fitness, it?s great for your brain health too,? says Hastings. ?For most of us dancing is both physically and mentally challenging. It combines the processing, coordination and execution of unique movements and requires a lot of genuine concentration.?

The latest research backs this up, demonstrating how dance can increase the number of cells in the brain?s hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for long and short term memory as well as spatial navigation. It?s also the area of the brain that is most susceptible to decline as we age ? so we need to look after it!

The study involved 52 exercising seniors. Over 18 months neuroscientists compared the effects of two different types of physical activity ? dance and sports training ? on hippocampal plasticity and balance. Half of the study participants participated in dance and half did a combination of strength, endurance and flexibility training. Both groups did two 90-minute sessions a week for six months, followed by just one 90-minute session a week for another 12 months.

After the 18 months of regular exercise both groups saw an increase the hippocampus. But it was the dancers who also benefited from improvements in the right part of the hippocampus, an area called the subiculum, that is responsible for balance.

The study also highlighted how mixing up the music genres and choreography is beneficial, providing proof that regular changes in dance routine can make dance superior to repetitive physical activities such as walking or cycling.

This is clearly good news for dance lovers, and the perfect encouragement for anyone who isn?t a regular groover. ?Even though we might find dance physically challenging, spending time dancing will pay off down the track,? says Hastings. ?If you actively look to increase the amount of cells in the hippocampus it can potentially lower the risk of suffering from terrible conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer?s in old age.?

Now?s the time to start dancing

Nina Dobrev?s brand new Reebok x Les Mills BODYJAM dance workout is out now! It?s packed with music and moves you?ll love and you can access it for free anytime, anywhere.



Keen for something different? Try LES MILLS DANCE

Gandalf Archer Mills, the international dancer and choreographer behind BODYJAM, has expertly crafted four dance routines you can learn and do anytime, anywhere and with anyone. Gandalf breaks down each routine into easy steps that you can learn and master. Check them out here.

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At Altered Images Bromsgrove our gym and spa is a place for all ages and abilities. We have a great timetable full of exercise classes for you to enjoy a healthy and happy lifestyle. Call us to arrange your trial day on?01527 874395!


Maybe you?ve watched other gym-goers rolling on these cylindrical pieces of foam and been curious. Maybe you use a foam roller yourself and routinely ask, ?How can something so innocent looking cause me so much pain?? Maybe you just want to know what they?re meant to do, and whether they actually work. Here?s what you need to know…

There are several different types of foam roller, ranging from one solid piece of foam, to hollow tubes with lumps and bumps emerging from the outer foam, and even rechargeable vibrating ones. The earliest scientific reported use of the foam roller?is from 1996, when foam rolling was used in a warm-up routine designed to help performing artists increase their range of motion (ROM). Thereafter, foam rollers slowly began appearing in both academic and popular?literature, and their cult status?has continued to increase.?In?the past five years the use of the foam roller has exploded, and they can now be seen on pretty much every gym floor across the globe.

foam rolling

Does foam rolling work?

Despite being twenty or so years since studies began, the science behind foam rolling is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, some useful patterns in the research findings are starting to emerge.

  1. Overall, does not appear to affect athletic performance

Many studies have explored the effect of foam rolling on subsequent athletic performance, yet only one study has ever concluded that foam rolling impedes athletic performance. Every other study has either found no effect, or a positive effect on performance. This suggests that, overall, foam rolling before exercise will not hamper performance.

  1. Before exercise may well improve short-term flexibility

Many studies have explored the effect foam rolling has on short-term flexibility, concluding that foam rolling before a workout will increase the ROM at the joint the muscle crosses (e.g. foam rolling down the thigh muscles increase ROM at the knee). This suggests that using a foam roller as part of a warm-up routine could be beneficial.

  1. After exercise can help reduce DOMS

All of the studies exploring whether foam rolling after exercise reduces the symptoms of delayed-onset-muscle-soreness (DOMS) have concluded that it does. It has been suggested that 20 minutes of foam rolling at the hips and legs for the three days following a leg training session may decrease DOMS pain. An acute 10-minute foam roll may immediately reduce DOMS pain for up to 30 minutes.


Why does it work?

More research needs to be done to provide really conclusive evidence, but there are three prevailing theories as to why foam rolling works:

Theory 1: Both the mechanical pressure and subsequent heat generation causes the fluid at the joint to become runnier, which decreases the resistance that would otherwise be caused by friction. Think of the effect that oil has on a metal joint, it?s the same thing.

Theory 2: The direct pressure along the direction of muscular pull slightly re-aligns any collagen fibers from a more random to a more uniform direction, leading to increased lymphatic drainage and less resistance.

Theory 3: The direct pressure onto the muscle shows a typical stretch-response (e.g. when you stretch, the muscle contracts for a few seconds, and then relaxes allowing you to stretch further), meaning that after 15-30 seconds, the muscle relaxes enough to?increase the ROM.

The bottom line

The research behind foam rolling suggests that using a foam roller can yield important benefits, whether you use the foam roller before or after your workout. Using the foam roller before training can increase the ROM, which could decrease chances of injury. Using the foam roller after training can decrease DOMS, which could speed up recovery and make DOMS more manageable. It seems that using the foam-roller does not impede performance, meaning that you have nothing to lose by trying it out!



There are several ways that you can use a foam roller depending on which joint or muscle you want to affect, and what type of foam roller you are using.

Here is a quick guide on some of the most popular and effective foam rolling exercises. These target the muscles and joints that tend to be the tightest in most people.


foam rolling

  • Sit on the floor with the foam roller underneath the upper part of the ankles
  • Lift your hips off the floor and move your body down towards the roller (so the roller is rolling towards the knee).
  • Move so that the roller is about an inch nearer to the knee, and then rock side-to-side for 15-30 seconds. Repeat inch by inch up towards the knee.
  • If the pressure isn?t hard enough, try it with one leg only.



foam rolling

  • With the foam roller on the floor, face the floor with the foam roller just above your knees on the quads.
  • Move so that the roller is about an inch nearer to the hip, and then rock side to side for 15-30 seconds. Repeat inch by inch up towards the hip.
  • If the pressure isn?t hard enough, try lifting one leg up and doing it with one leg at a time.

IT Band

foam rolling

  • Lie on your side with the foam roller resting just up from the knee on the side of the leg.
  • Move until the roller is about an inch nearer to the hip, and then rock side to side for 15-30 seconds. Repeat inch by inch moving towards the hip.
  • If the pressure it too much, put more weight into your arms to decrease the pressure on your leg.
  • Repeat with the other leg.


foam rolling

  • Sit on the roller so that the roller is underneath the butt.
  • Bring one leg across until the ankle rests on the opposite knee/thigh.
  • Using your arms for support behind the roller, move the roller up and down and side to side.
  • Once you find a particularly tender spot, hold the pressure on that spot for 15-30 seconds.



The studies referred to in this article include:


  1. Beardsley, C. and ?karabot, J., 2015. Effects of self-myofascial release: A systematic review. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, [online] 19(4), pp.747?758.
  2. Janot, J.M., Malin, B., Cook, R., Hagenbucher, J., Draeger, A., Jordan, M., Van Guilder, G., 2013. Effects of self myofascial release & static stretching on anaerobic power output. Fit. Res. 2, pp. 41-54.
  3. Cheatham, S.W., Kolber, M.J., Cain, M. and Lee, M., 2015. The effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roller or roller massager on joint range of motion, muscle recovery, and performance: a systematic review. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 10(6), pp.827?838.
  4. Schleip, R., 2003. Fascial plasticity?a new neurobiological explanation: Part 1.?Journal of Bodywork and movement therapies,?7(1), pp.11-19.



Mike Trott is a UK-based fitness professional who specializes in sports personality psychology and sports exercise physiology. He has conducted academic research into group exercise interventions and personality, exercise addiction, and foam rolling physiology, and is also a multi-award-winning Les Mills instructor, trainer and presenter.


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