7 health benefits of dance for seniors

Excerpt: Dancing your way through the pandemic is a healthy antidote to cabin fever that can improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Dancing to your own music indoors, through online classes or outdoors with others at a physical distance protects your heart, improves strength, flexibility, and balance, and helps prevent falls. Dance can also help to keep you mentally sharp, lift your mood and connect socially.

Dancing your way through the pandemic is one of the healthiest antidotes to cabin fever.

Public Health and social measures to protect against COVID-19 have made it challenging for many older adults to maintain a physically active lifestyle,* according to a European Review of Aging and Physical Activity study. Yet staying active later in life reduces the risk of disease, helps to manage existing conditions, and develops and maintains physical and mental function.*

Dancing to your favourite music, or the many online dance classes available during the pandemic, is an easy, fun way for older adults to keep active. This spring and summer, you can also enjoy dancing outdoors safely at a physical distance from others.

Beyond the physical benefits, dancing is a creative activity that can lift your mood, reduce stress and release negative emotions to help get through the pandemic,*, advises Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Dance can boost the physical, mental and emotional well-being of seniors in many wonderful ways:

  1. Strengthen your heart
    Older adults who danced regularly had a 46% lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who rarely or never danced,* reported an American Journal of Preventive Medicine study.

  2. Improve strength, flexibility and agility
    Dancing is a multifaceted physical activity, which enables older adults to significantly improve their aerobic power, lower body muscle endurance, balance, agility, and gait,* according to a Journal of Aging and Physical Activity study.

  3. Keep mentally sharp
    Dancing regularly can help to maintain or improve cognition in healthy older adults,* reported a Journal of Cognitive Enhancement study. The multisensory stimulation, social interaction and learning of movement sequences bolsters brain health.*

  4. Prevent falls
    Dance-based activities, such as folk dancing, ballroom dancing and tai chi, reduced falls by 31% and the risk of falling by 37% for older adults,* reported a 2020 JAMA Network Open study. Balance training from dancing helps a person react faster to prevent a fall when losing control while walking.*

  5. Dance away the blues
    Aerobic dance, ballroom dancing, social dancing, tango, and dance movement therapy were effective in improving mood and lowering depression for older adults living in retirement communities or alone in their own homes,* according to a Therapeutic Recreation Journal study.

  6. Connect and engage socially
    Square dancing found a new vitality online during the pandemic as clubs began organizing virtual square dances on Zoom, where couples or solo dancers can connect and dance with others,* says University of Calgary. Check out different styles of dance classes for seniors online from ballroom and ballet to salsa, line dancing and Jazzercise.

  7. Ease chronic pain
    Dance-based treatment led to a significant reduction in pain for people suffering from fibromyalgia,* reported an Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine study. Older adults with arthritis had less knee and hip pain, and could walk faster after taking regular 45-minute dance therapy classes,* according to Geriatric Nursing.

Chartwell Retirement Residences offers a movement class called Rhythm ‘n’ Moves, as well as other safe fitness and dance opportunities through our LiveNow life enrichment programming. Learn more at chartwell.com.

*The following sources provided references for this blog, in order of appearance:
1. European Review of Aging and Physical Activity. “Why physical activity matters for older adults in a time of pandemic.” (2020), online: https://eurapa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s11556-020-00249-3
2. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “How paying attention to our feelings can help us get through the COVID-19 pandemic.” (2020), online: https://health.sunnybrook.ca/mental-health/paying-attention-to-feelings-can-help-us-get-through-covid-19/
3. Medical Express. “Study finds dancing halves chance of death from cardiovascular disease.” (2016), online: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-03-halves-chance-death-cardiovascular-disease.html
4. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. “Physical benefits of dancing for older adults: A review.” (2009), online: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/40033548_Physical_Benefits_of_Dancing_for_Healthy_Older_Adults_A_Review
5. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. “Effects of dancing on cognition in healthy older adults: a systematic review.” (2019), online: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41465-018-0103-2
6. Medical Express. “Shall you dance? Study finds dancing helps seniors avoid falls.” (2020), online: file:///C:/Users/Mark/Downloads/2020-10-seniors-falls.pdf
7. Therapeutic Recreation Journal. “The impact of dance interventions on mood and depression in older adults.” (2015), online: https://leftylexi.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/dancemood.pdf
8. University of Calgary. “Square dancing community finds new vitality online during pandemic.” (2020), online: https://www.ucalgary.ca/news/square-dancing-community-finds-new-vitality-online-during-pandemic
9. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. “Effects of dance on pain in patients with fibromyalgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” (2018), online: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2018/8709748/
10. Arthritis Foundation. “Dance away joint pain.” (2014), online: http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/dance-therapy-joint-pain/