A four-month dance program helped older Latino adults walk faster and improved their physical fitness, which may reduce their risk for heart disease, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology/Lifestyle 2016 Scientific Sessions.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago tested whether a community-based intervention focused on Latin dancing could benefit 54 Spanish-speaking adults (about 65 years old, 80 percent Mexican female) who were not very physically active. Participants were randomly assigned to either participate in a dance program twice a week for four months or to attend a health education program. All participants completed questionnaires about their leisure time physical activity and a 400-meter walk test at the start and end of the study.
After four months of twice-weekly Latin dancing, researchers found:
- Dancers walked faster and were more physically active during their leisure time than before they started dancing.
- Dancers completed a 400-meter walk in just under 392 seconds compared with almost 430 seconds at the start of the study.
- Leisure physical activity rose from 650 minutes to nearly a total of 818 minutes per week.
- Those in the health education classes had a smaller improvements in their fitness – they finished the 400-meter walk in about 409 seconds at the end of the study compared with 419 seconds four months earlier; total time spent on weekly leisure physical activity increased from 522 minutes to 628 minutes over the course of the study.
The dance program is a program called BAILAMOS©, a culturally-tailored, community-based lifestyle intervention developed at the University of Illinois at Chicago by David X. Marquez and Miguel Mendez, included four different dance styles – merengue, bachata, cha cha cha and salsa – led by the dance instructor, with more complex choreography as the program progressed.
Dancing could have wider health implications, too. Priscilla Vásquez, M.P.H., said the research team is interested in testing whether BAILAMOS© can help older Latinos already experiencing mild cognitive impairment. “We are interested in using magnetic resonance imaging to see if dancing positively affects their brains,” she said.
Source: American Heart Association. “Latin dancing may have health benefits for older adults.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2016.