Dancing the one form of exercise that keeps older women active
It is never too late to put on your dancing shoes and head out on to the floor.
Dancing could help older women to remain living independently, unlike other forms of exercise.
Compared to activities including golf, cycling and jogging, dance is the only exercise which may help pensioners cope with daily activities.
Older women who dance are 73 per cent less likely to need help with routine tasks such as bathing, dressing and eating, a study found.
Experts believe dancing makes daily life easier for older people by improving their sense of balance and thinking skills.
Compared to activities including golf, cycling and jogging, dance is the only exercise which may help pensioners cope with daily activities
Remembering how to prepare a meal is nothing compared to the choreography involved in some dance steps.
Researchers led by Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology tracked more than 1,000 women aged 75 to 84.
The pensioners took part in 16 different types of exercise, but dance was the only one linked to improved daily life skills.
Women who danced were less likely to have a ‘disability’ meaning they needed partial or total help with activities of daily living (ADL).
Lead author Dr Yosuke Osuka said: ‘Although it is unclear why dancing alone reduced the risk of ADL disability, dancing requires not only balance, strength, and endurance ability, but also cognitive ability – adaptability and concentration to move according to the music and partner, artistry for graceful and fluid motion, and memory for choreography.
‘We think that these various elements may contribute to the superiority of dancing in maintaining a higher ADL capacity.’
Older women were asked if they participated in 16 exercise types, including hiking, ball games, bowling, aqua exercise and yoga. They were then monitored for a total of eight years.
While all of the study group lived independently at the start of the experiment, and none had difficulties with daily tasks, roughly one in eight developed problems.
Women are generally more likely to develop physical problems in old age than men.
Researchers looking at all types of exercise found only dancing reduced women’s risk of needing help with the five daily activities, which were walking, eating, bathing, dressing and using the bathroom.
None of the other activities, which also included martial arts, quoits and tai chi, had an effect.
The study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science, says previous research suggests that ‘dancing is a more useful exercise for maintaining brain structure and balance ability in older adults compared to walking, strength and flexibility exercise’.
It has an effect on both strength and endurance, while being challenging mentally, which could help with other life skills.
The authors conclude: ‘Participation in dancing was significantly and independently associated with a reduced risk of incident ADL disability among older Japanese women.
‘In this sense, dancing should be a useful exercise for maintaining functional capacity in this population. This finding may encourage participation in dancing among the older population.’
Earlier this year it was announced elderly people in Britain could be prescribed ballroom dancing on the NHS to combat loneliness.
IS BALLROOM DANCING GOOD FOR ELDERLY PEOPLE?
Elderly people are advised to take up tango and ballroom dancing to cut the risk of falling and injuring themselves.
In June 2017, dance scientist Dr Emma Redding, from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, said dance classes could help prevent falls, which are the biggest cause of emergency hospital admissions for pensioners in Britain and kill almost 5,000 people every year.
The slower, structured dance styles of tango and ballroom provide ankle and core strength for older people, helping them keep their balance.
Older people are more at risk of falling because of muscle deterioration and a loss of balance that comes with age, as well as sight problems and the side effects of medications.
Elderly people are advised to take up tango and ballroom dancing to cut the risk of falling and injuring themselves
Dr Redding also said dance classes can help widowed people who are lonely, while the traditional music they waltz to can bring back valuable memories for those with dementia.
Speaking before giving a talk at Cheltenham Science Festival, she said: ‘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.
‘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 and could help keep them safe.’
Dancing burns off six calories a minute in the average person, compared to 10 calories a minute for football.
This is particularly good for older people, who typically fail to achieve their guideline 150 minutes of moderate exercise and two of more days of strength exercises a week.