Could dancing be the ultimate prescription for improved health and wellbeing for older adults?

Jun 16, 2023
Get ready to Cha Cha Slide your way to better health. Source: Getty

Who says age has to stop you from busting a move?

According to exciting new research led by the University of Leeds, regular dance sessions can do wonders for people over 85.

Researchers have found that not only does dancing help older adults stay physically active, but it also provides a vibrant social environment and a chance for them to reconnect with their younger selves.

The Dance On project, a collaboration between the University’s School of Biomedical Sciences, One Dance UK, Yorkshire Dance, and Darts- Doncaster’s participatory arts charity, showed that age shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to embracing the benefits of dance.

Over the course of a year, the trial asked 685 participants aged 55 and older to join weekly dance classes across Leeds, Bradford, and Doncaster to see if dancing would lead to any improvement in their wellbeing and mobility.

According to Leeds’ School of Biomedical Science Associate Professor, Dr Sarah Astill, the motivation behind the research is that “physical inactivity has been recognised as a significant risk factor for non-infectious diseases and mortality. Unfortunately, there has been a decline in physical activity among older adults, especially those over 75.”

“Engaging adults in physical activity is a global priority, as it supports healthy ageing and helps slow down the progression of diseases and disabilities,” she said.

“We [wanted] to show that dance [classes] delivered across a range of socially and economically diverse communities is a feasible way to get older adults physically active. This is evident even for the ‘oldest old’ at 85+ years.”

The results showed that participants not only increased their weekly physical activity but sustained it throughout the entire year.

And that’s not all—those who danced their hearts out reported feeling stronger, more confident, and even “years younger”.

One participant from Doncaster exclaimed, “after a Dance On session, I feel exhausted but brilliant! I’m a lot better now than I’ve ever been.”

While another added, “it’s really changed my lifestyle because since I retired, I think I was deteriorating. It’s certainly improved my lifestyle, and I feel years younger in just a few months that I’ve been coming. I feel a lot better.”

The other organisations involved in the project are equally thrilled with the positive outcomes.

Darts director, Lucy Robertshaw, expressed her excitement, saying, “the opportunity to take part in this research has been fantastic—we’ve gained a real insight into the positive long-term impacts of sustained engagement in social dance and movement activity.”

Meanwhile, One Dance UK CEO, Andrew Hurst, talked about the profound impact dance can have on physical and mental health.

“Dance is such a powerful tool to support physical and mental health…We’re delighted that Dance On is now an evidence-based program, demonstrating the effectiveness of taking part in regular dance activity as you age,” Hurst said.

“We hope this leads to future investment in this valuable work which contributes to people living healthier, happier lives.”

If you’re ready to put on your dancing shoes and embrace the health benefits of dancing, then consider checking out these fantastic dance classes specifically for seniors across Australia.

  • The Golds: Join the vibrant dance and performance group in Canberra that welcomes anyone over 55.
  • Made (Mature Artists Dance Experience): Tasmania’s very own dance company redefining the art of movement for mature bodies. Prepare to be amazed by their captivating performances.
  • Fine Lines: This Victorian community of mature dancers with members up to 80 years old.
  • Ripe dance (Really Is Possible for Everyone): Noosa’s haven for dance enthusiasts over 60. Discover the joy of movement in their inclusive weekly classes designed for dancers of any ability.
  • Spring for seniors dance theatre class: Experience the magic of dance in the iconic Sydney Opera House. This monthly workshop welcomes individuals over 55, regardless of mobility levels, and even offers options for those with limited mobility.
  • Dance for Parkinson’s: This fun and positive class utilises dance strategies, focusing on balance, strength, and overall well-being. Suitable for individuals with conditions like Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain.
  • Dance health alliance: For older adults with movement-restricting conditions, the Dance Health Alliance offers a range of tailored dance programs.

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