Don’t Overlook the Health Benefits of Dancing

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Older women who dance have a decreased risk of developing disabilities that affect daily activities, according to a study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, published online in December 2018.

Researchers studied the effects of dancing and 15 other activities, including calisthenics, walking, yoga, and jogging, on 1,003 Japanese women ages 70 to 84. The study sought to identify the exercises most likely to prevent disabilities that affect walking, eating, bathing, dressing, and toileting. Researchers measured the types of daily exercise the women commonly performed over eight years. After adjusting for other risk factors, the researchers found that dancing was associated with only a 4 percent risk of developing an activity-of-daily-living disability compared to 13 percent for nondancers.

WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW: Dancing might have come out on top because of its multifaceted health benefits: It requires balance, strength, and endurance, as well as cognitive abilities like adaptability, concentration, artistry, and memory for choreography. However, the study didn’t specify the types of dancing performed or compare the intensity, duration, and frequency of dancing with the other exercises the women performed. So, concluding that dancing ranks number 1 in keeping disability at bay might be a stretch, especially since countless studies have found that physical activity of many varieties promotes positive health outcomes.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: We’re not suggesting you trade in your running shoes for dance slippers. But dance-and dance fitness classes like Zumba-can be a practical alternative or addition to your workout. Moreover, it adds a social component that can contribute to good health, too.