Many health organizations recommend seniors remain physically active to avoid or postpone health issues ranging from cognitive decline to cardiovascular disease. Dancing is an excellent option that many older ones love. The health benefits range from improving your physical health to creating strong social connections that increase your sense of happiness and well-being.
If you’d like to get started, try checking local community centers and retirement homes for free or inexpensive dance classes aimed at senior citizens. Enrolling in one of these age-specific programs ensures the moves will be appropriate for individual strength levels. Additionally, they provide great opportunities for socialization with other seniors.
Here are 5 key benefits, and the science that supports them.
- Reduce depression: While depression is a serious illness that must be treated by a doctor, you can still do everything within your power to boost your mood. A group of Australian researchers found that men and women with mood disorders who participated in a two-week tango instruction program felt less depressed, and experienced significant reductions in their levels of stress, anxiety and insomnia.
- Improve strength: Even just a few weeks of dance classes can improve your strength, according to a study published in the journal Gerontology. The study authors noted that dance was a safe and feasible exercise program for most older adults. They also noted the high adherence rate of the program—over 92 percent of the seniors who started ended up completing the eight-week salsa dancing regimen.
- Alleviate stiffness: A Saint Louis University (SLU) study recently concluded that after engaging in a 12-week, low-impact dance program, participants with an average age of 80 years old were able to decrease the amount of pain medication they were taking by 39 percent. They were also able to move around more easily—a key determinant in remaining independent. “Walking just a little more rapidly can make enough of a difference for a person to get across the street more quickly or get to the bathroom faster, which keeps them functional and independent,” says study author Jean Krampe, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing at SLU. Any medication changes should be discussed with your primary care physician.
- Defend against dementia: When compared to other leisure activities (e.g. playing golf, doing crosswords, reading, cycling, etc.) dancing actually appears to offer the best chance of helping stave off dementia. According to a 21-year study led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, aging adults who danced regularly had a 76 percent reduced risk for developing dementia. Experts theorize that dancing is beneficial for our brains because it combines cardiovascular exercise with split-second decision-making that taxes our neural network, forcing it to create new pathways.
- A realistic goal: Parkinson’s disease, dementia, cancer, arthritis, asthma, and heart disease: What do all of these conditions have in common? They don’t prohibit you from dancing. Research into using dance as a therapy for each of these ailments has unearthed a host of advantages, with very few risks. However, it’s important to always be sure and check with a doctor before embarking on a rigorous dancing regime, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions.
So, what are you waiting for? Call up a friend to join you, and enjoy an hour or two dancing your cares away!