Dance your way to better health. A new study has found that ballroom dancing can help to reduce falls and improve balance in the elderly. In just a half hour of ballroom dancing three days a week for three months, researchers found a 50 percent improvement in balance and far fewer falls among seniors.
Lead author, Eliane Gomes da Silva Borges, of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro state in Rio de Janeiro, said, “To be able to see the elderly dancing and spinning with autonomy, balance and a cognitive awareness of their space and body helped us understand ways to join useful exercise with a pleasant activity.”
With age, muscles weaken leading to more falls, which can end up limiting a person’s physical ability. In addition, remaining sedentary, such as in a nursing home that has less freedom and fewer opportunities for physical activity, just accelerates the loss of strength and balance, the researchers write. “We have to realize that the practice of physical activity is beneficial because it strengthens the musculoskeletal system and professionals (in nursing homes) can and must help,” Borges told Reuters Health in an email.
For the study, researchers recruited residents at three nursing homes, a total of 59 participants in their 60s and 70s. Almost half (30) of the participants participated in dance sessions, while the other 29 acted as the comparison group, engaging in no exercise. Prior to the study, all participants were sedentary for at least 3 months. At baseline, participants were asked how many times they had fallen and had their balance tested.
At the end of the 12 week study period, the dancing group had improved their balance score, while the sedentary group worsened. The number of falls also decreased, with the average at baseline being 5 falls, but during the study, there was just one fall among participants in the dancing group.
Jean Krampe, a clinical faculty member at the St Louis University school of Nursing who was not involved in the study, said this study adds to the research being done on the benefits of dancing for elderly people in the U.S. “Regular doses of dancing will increase lower extremity strength, and lower your risk of falling. Even if you haven’t danced before, it’s a very safe, healthy way to increase your chances of staying around and keeping healthy,” she said.