A dance a day could keep the doctor at bay
Doctors are recommending dancing lessons for the elderly for numerous health benefits, from preventing falls to helping with dementia.
Falls are the largest cause of hospital admissions in the elderly, and claim 5,000 lives in the UK each year. Speaking before the Cheltenham Science Festival, dance scientist Dr Emma Redding, says that balance can be improved through the dance styles of tango and ballroom because of the benefit in ankle and core strength.
“When dancing you take physical risks you would not on your own. You shift your weight from side to side, from front to back, as you would not do when walking,” she said. “This helps with ankle and core stability and makes people much more confident when moving in everyday life. The postural alignment is very important in preventing falls in older people.”
Dr Redding works for the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and says that these benefits could be more than just for falls, which cost the NHS an estimated £2 billion each year.
“These are people who may not have been touched for many months and this provides physical human contact with others and can help to boost their self-esteem.”
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As well as helping with loneliness, the traditional music they dance to could help bring back valuable memories for those with dementia.
One report published in The New England Journal of Medicine followed a group of seniors over the age of 75 for 21 years. The study sought to examine how certain activities could build brain functioning and lower seniors’ chances for having Alzheimer’s disease.
Older adults participated in five activities; reading, bicycling and swimming, crossword puzzles, golf and dancing, and of all, dancing reaped the greatest results, with researchers finding that seniors who danced were 76 percent less likely to develop dementia.
Researchers concluded that participating in leisure activities of any sort may reduce one’s risk for developing the condition, but dancing was the only physical activity to which they found a connection.
And researchers from Saint Louis University found that older adults suffering from arthritis or stiffness of the hips and knees reported significant decreases in pain.