Proceedings of The Physiological Society

The Biomedical Basis of Elite Performance 2016 (London, UK) (2016) Proc Physiol Soc 35, PC31

Poster Communications

Does dancing in old age afford neuromuscular protection?

M. V. Narici1, K. Rehfeld2, N. Müller3, D. Rankin1, A. Hökelmann2

1. MRC-ARUK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Derby, Derbyshire, United Kingdom. 2. Institut für Sportwissenschaft, Otto- von- Guericke- Universität Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany. 3. Helmhholtz Associat, German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Magdeburg, Germany.


Motor neuron degeneration, denervation, loss of structural and functional integrity of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) and loss of motor units (MUs), markedly contribute to the age-related decline in muscle mass (sarcopenia) (Deschenes, 2011). Evidence of NMJ degeneration in sarcopenic individuals is now available from serum measurements of c-terminal peptide agrin fragment (CAF), a breakdown product of the heparan sulphate proteoglycan agrin, released after NMJ damage (Hettwer et al. 2013). Interestingly, aerobic exercise in senile rats seems to protect against denervation and NMJ degeneration (Valdez et al. 2010) and in humans, no decline in MUs has been found in muscles of master runners (Power et al. 2010). Hence the present study aimed to investigate whether an aerobic activity such as dancing could have neuroprotective effects when compared to conventional gym exercise training. Thirty-seven older individuals (aged 71.6±3.5 yr) were recruited (18 female and 19 male) and randomly assigned either to a Dance Group (DG, 9 female, 10 male) or to a Gym Exercise Group (GEG, 9 female, 9 male). Both interventions took place twice a week, lasted 90 minutes each, for a period of six months. DG training consisted of Line, Jazz, Rock 'n' Roll, Latin-American and Square dances. GEG training consisted of endurance, strength-endurance and flexibility training. For both DG and GEG, each set of exercises/dances, lasted 20 minutes. Blood samples were collected before and after the intervention to measure CAF levels in serum using a commercially available Elisa kit (NTCAF ELISA, Neurotune AG, Schlieren, Switzerland). The data were compared to those of reference populations of older sarcopenic and young controls (Hettwer et al. 2013). Values are means ± S.D., compared by paired or unpaired Student's t-Test, as appropriate. Since no significant differences were found between CAF values of male and female participants of both groups, values were pooled together. Pre-training, CAF values of the DG (202.9±66.3 pM) and GEG (228.5±70.5 pM) groups were respectively 1.9 and 2.2-fold higher than those of the young reference population and were statistically not different from the aged-matched elderly controls (214.1±118.2 pM). However, after the 6-month intervention period, CAF levels decreased by 15% (P<0.001) in DG, (pre 202.6±66 pM post 172.1±50.2 pM) while no changes were found in the GEG (pre 228.5±70.5pM, post 219.7±60.0 pM, n.s.). The present findings suggest a reduction of neuromuscular degeneration in older humans as a result of a six-month recreational dancing intervention. Instead, general fitness training based on strength, endurance and flexibility exercises does not seem to produce these benefits. It is not clear how dancing affords this protection but this could be due to a reduction of oxidative stress, inflammation and/or improved neurotrophin levels (Gonzalez-Freire et al. 2014).

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements