Hope You Dance

When you think of dance, what comes to mind?  Is it the foxtrot, waltz, tango or salsa?  Maybe you think of Zumba or Jazzercise. Or maybe you think of the weekly program, Dancing with the Stars.

But did you know that dance is a great brain health strategy? In fact, a study looking at better memory over the course of fourteen years found that dance was a lifestyle factor associated with better memory. The results of this study show the importance of dance in vascular health as well as cognitive function. When eleven different types of physical activities were assessed, only dancing actually showed a lowering effect on dementia risk.

Dance combines physical, cognitive and social engagement that improves each factor. Physically, dance has shown improved balance, and functional capacity. Socially, dance has been shown to enhance quality of life. Improved balance means less risk of falling.

Dance even works for those with Alzheimer’s dementia. Salsa dance therapy had a positive effect on balance, gait, and fall risk in sedentary patients with Alzheimer’s dementia. Six months post-study, no falls had been reported.

Balance and locomotion were positively affected for Parkinson’s dementia patients as well. A study looking at Argentinian tango and American ballroom found that the tango and the waltz/foxtrot groups had improved walk distance and backward stride.  The tango group actually improved as much or more than the waltz/foxtrot group.

If you are a dedicated Dancing with the Stars fan, you will be pleased to know that observing dance has been shown to enhance well-being and focus. A study with participants with Alzheimer’s showed improved well-being. Similarly, a study with participants with Parkinson’s has shown that watching dance improved eye focus.

As important as the cognitive and physical benefits of dance are the psychosocial. A study of dancing in care homes showed a decrease in negative behaviors, and an increase in social interaction and enjoyment for both residents and care staff.

Research on dance has a range of outcome with some variability due to study structure. With music being a key component of dancing, it is difficult to separate out the effect of music on the outcomes.  The reduction in stress, the increase in serotonin and the improvement of quality of life factors all work together to show dance as a hopeful component of a healthy brain and a positive lifestyle factor.

References available upon request.

About Cate

Passionate about dementia care and quality of life throughout the last days of life----sums up Cate McCarty, Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. With close to forty years of long-term care experience in nursing and recreation, a Master's in Thanatology and a PhD in Aging Studies, Dr. Cate seizes every opportunity to translate research into quality of life for individuals with dementia and all of us who have the honor to "rub elbows" with them.
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2 Responses to Hope You Dance

  1. Earl Concors says:

    Dr. Cate: I contacted you several months ago concerning my role as caregiver for my wife. I read the article in recent Island Reporter and would appreciate learning the time and place for Memory Cafe’ (Neptune and Carrabba’s)

  2. Cate says:

    Hi Earl, I have tried your email and it bounces back as undeliverable. As we figure that out I can give you the dates here and direct you to the calendar page on this website.The memory cafes in South Pinellas are the second and third Mondays of the month and the third Friday.

    Gulfport, at Neptune Grille is on May 14th at 12:15, second Monday.

    St Petersburg, at Carrabba’s of Sunken Gardens is on May 21st at 11, third Monday.

    Tyrone Square Walking Club & Memory Cafe is on May 18th at 10, food court entrance, or meet at 11 at Red Robin entrance. This coming month (May) we will be eating at Medici’s Pizza starting at 11.
    Glad the Island Reporter caught us back up. Please send me an email to catemccarty@gmail.com so I can better capture your address. Or call at 813-384-7571.

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