A Saint Louis University (SLU) study shows that dancing can ease hip and knee pain as well as improve mobility in older adults. The research team from the university’s school of nursing and department of physical therapy conducted a 12-weeek study with 34 residents of a senior citizen apartment complex, who were mostly female and an average age of 80 years. Participants said they had pain or stiffness in their hips or knees caused by arthritis in most cases.

Researchers divided the participants into two groups: 19 volunteers were in the group that danced for 45 minutes up to two times a week, while 15 did not receive dance therapy but engaged in similar physical activities. Overall, the average participant in the dance group attended 21 out of 24 sessions, according to a Saint Louis University Medical Center news release.

The specific kind of dance therapy in the study is Healthy-Steps, a low impact aerobic activity that is rhythmic and slow and can be done sitting or standing. SLU researchers customized Healthy-Steps for participants of the study who have arthritis and pain in their lower extremities.

Jean Krampe, PhD, lead author of the article, states, “After dancing, over several months they reported less pain and were able to walk faster.” She explains, “Dance-based therapy for older adults needs to be gentle, slow and include options so it can be performed standing or sitting because their fatigue or pain level can change day to day.”

Krampe adds, “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. In our study, those who danced didn’t walk dramatically faster, but they had a meaningful change in their walking speed.” She says, “Those in the dance group talked about how much they loved it. It’s exercise, but it’s fun.”

The research was published this spring in Geriatric Nursing.

Source: Saint Louis University Medical Center