Ms Aditi Tulaskar,
St. Xavier's College (Autonomous),
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
No matter your age—from 16 to 65—dancing is for you. Be it street dances like hip hop and waacking or the good ol’ Waltz, the act of dancing is known to flood our brains with a dose of DOSE-Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Epinephrine-which immediately boosts our spirits and leaves us in a cheerful and energizing mood. But the effects of dance are not limited to our emotional well-being. According to research, dancing could increase the lower body's bone mineral content and muscle strength in old people, as well as minimize their risk of falling and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, it has been suggested that dance may help Parkinson's patients with their functional mobility and their depressive symptoms.
Ageing is frequently linked to a general reduction in physical fitness as well as a steady decline in perception, motor, and cognitive skills. Numerous studies have revealed that senior citizens' cognitive capacities are positively impacted by frequent physical activity. According to research by Kattenstroth et al., dance is an analogue of enriched environmental conditions in humans because it includes not only the necessary elements of physical activity, rhythmic motor coordination, balance, and memory but also feelings of love, affection, social interaction, and musical experience. They investigated the effects of long-term, consistent ballroom dancing on a group of senior participants with normal neurological function (amateur dancing; AD) in comparison to a non-dancing control group (CG), where the combined average age of the participants was around 71. The assessment was expanded to include measurements of cognitive, attentional, intellectual, perceptual, and sensorimotor performance in addition to posture and balance parameters in order to cover fundamental indicators of sensory and motor function as well as more challenging tasks requiring higher levels of cognition. The AD group performed better at each of the many levels assessed. The amateur dancer group (AD), which consists of 24 people (19 of them are women), has been involved in amateur dancing for around 16.5 years. The non-dancer control group (CG) was made up of 38 individuals, (30 of whom were female) and had no prior history of either dancing or athletic activities. The AD group and CG were accessed based on factors such as Everyday competence (using a custom-made ETQ – Everyday competence questionnaire), cognitive performance, multiple-choice reaction time management, posture, balance, and gait control, motor performance, and tactile performance. The AD group performed better than the CG group of non-dancers in each of the various categories examined.
The specially designed ECQ covered areas of daily life such as independence in daily living activities and mobility, social interactions, general health status, and life satisfaction. The ECQ had 17 items, each of which had a distinct question describing what is known as the "instrumental tasks of daily living," or IADL. The number of points earned by a subject was divided by the maximum scores permitted for each item, and the results were then normalised to a scale from 0 to 1. The Raven standard progressive matrices (RSPM) test, with a 30-minute time constraint, was used to access the general intelligence of the participants. RSPM is a non-language, non-reading-based measure of intelligence. The non-verbal geriatric concentration test (AKT) was used to evaluate selective attention and concentration. For the multiple-choice RT assessment, a finger-selection visuo-tactile task was used. Three tests were performed to gauge the subjects' control over their posture, ability to maintain balance, and gait security. The Romberg test is a typical neurological exam addressing joint position sense. The steadiness, aiming, pin-plugging and tapping tests were used to examine the speed, accuracy, and maintenance of upper limb posture during the execution of fine-motor movements of the left and right arm, hand, and fingers. By using von Frey filaments to probe the fingertips, the touch threshold was measured. Three times through the process, six data were obtained, which were then averaged to get the absolute touch threshold.
The AD group showed a significantly higher ECQ score than the CG group. In the tests assessing cognitive performance, the AD group had higher scores in both the RSPM and the AKT. When testing posture and balance, we found no differences for the Romberg test. In the other two tests for evaluating the balance and gait security of the participants, the AD group performed much better than the CG. The number of errors was greater in the CG group for the subtest Steadiness for the left hand in the motor domain. The subtest Aiming showed that the right hand performed better for the parameters than the left hand. Although the significance threshold was not met, the AD group performed the subtest Pin plugging faster with both hands. Significant differences for the left hand were reported for the subtest Tapping, where the AD group obtained greater rates. Touch thresholds did not differ between the groups.
It is evidently true that elderly people with more dancing experience fared better than their inactive counterparts in essentially every one of the criteria examined above. Falls resulting from a lack of postural control and good balance are one of the main issues of ageing. As a result, many of the intervention programmes that have been designed to reduce the risk of falling involve dancing. The need of dancing can be connected to better balance and posture, which is partially also true for better hand-arm function. Conversely, tactile skills seem to have no connection to dancing. The fact that the absolute touch thresholds of the AD and CG groups were the same is consistent with recent findings in elderly individuals that indicate that continuous sensory stimulation techniques can increase tactile acuity while maintaining absolute touch thresholds. In a group of older dancers who were physically active, a study examined the positive effects of regular dancing practice on C-terminal Agrin fragment (CAF) concentration, a marker of NMJ (Neuromuscular Junction) instability, muscle mass, strength, and physical performance. It showed that regular dancing in old age, combined with light aerobic physical activity, is linked to a decrease in CAF concentration and an improvement in gait and balance. Numerous studies have revealed that regular dancers have considerably better overall physical, mental, and emotional health than non-dancers and people who are not as active.
We can therefore say with conviction that "better dance than never." There is never a bad time to start exercising, and there is no exercise more enjoyable than dancing until your heart is content. With a wide array of dance forms to choose from, let your heart run wild. You can even join a dance group! Participating in an activity with your peers makes it even more exciting and pleasurable. Additionally, a strong sense of community can do wonders for your mental health. Begin your path to a healthy lifestyle with dance and a balanced diet, and get one step closer to successful ageing.
So, get in the groove! Or as Kenny Loggins famously sings, "Lose Your Blues, everybody cut Footloose!"
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Keogh, J. W. L., Kilding, A., Pidgeon, P., Ashley, L., & Gillis, D. (2009). Physical benefits of dancing for healthy older adults: a review. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 17(4), 479–500. https://doi.org/10.1123/japa.17.4.479
Carapellotti, A. M., Rodger, M., & Doumas, M. (2022). Evaluating the effects of dance on motor outcomes, non-motor outcomes, and quality of life in people living with Parkinson’s: a feasibility study. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 8(1), 36. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40814-022-00982-9
Kattenstroth, J.-C., Kolankowska, I., Kalisch, T., & Dinse, H. R. (2010). Superior sensory, motor, and cognitive performance in elderly individuals with multi-year dancing activities. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2010.00031
Marcolin, G., Franchi, M. V., Monti, E., Pizzichemi, M., Sarto, F., Sirago, G., Paoli, A., Maggio, M., Zampieri, S., & Narici, M. (2021). Active older dancers have lower C-terminal Agrin fragment concentration, better balance and gait performance than sedentary peers. Experimental Gerontology, 153(111469), 111469. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exger.2021.111469