New study results suggest that dancing the Argentine tango may offer potential benefits for individuals at certain stages in the development of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

According to a McGill University news release, researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital –The Neuro, McGill University, and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre conducted the study.

The study investigated changes in patients’ motor abilities following a 12-week tango course, and also assessed the effect tango has on non-motor symptoms.

The release reports that the study focused on whether a social and physical activity linked to music, such as tango, could have possible therapeutic value for PD patients who characteristically suffer from motor dysfunctions, as well as from non-motor symptoms, such as depression, fatigue, and cognitive degeneration. A total of 40 men and women with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease participated in the study, which encompassed studio classes with two professional dance teachers. Patients were from the Movement Disorders Clinics of the McGill University Health Centre.

In the release, Dr Silvia Rios Romenets, lead researcher in the study with a special interest in Parkinson’s disease and dance therapy, explains that “There’s accumulating evidence that habitual physical activity is linked with a lower risk of developing PD, which suggests a potential slowing of PD progression.”

Rios Romenets is a clinical research fellow at the Movement Disorders Clinics at The Neuro and Montreal General Hospital.

In the study, researchers found tango was helpful in significantly improving balance and functional mobility, Rios Romenets says.

It also “seemed to encourage patients to appreciate their general course of therapy. We also found modest benefits in terms of patients’ cognitive functions and in reducing fatigue. No significant changes were detected in overall motor functions,” Rios Romenets adds.

Argentine tango in particular may be helpful for improving balance and functional mobility in patients with PD, the release states. The tango requires specific steps that involve rhythmically walking forward and backward. This may be helpful for walking difficulties, especially for freezing of gait and to prevent backward falls, the release says. Additionally, the tango calls for working memory, control of attention, and multitasking to incorporate newly learned and previously learned dance elements, to stay in rhythm with the music, and maneuver around others on the dance floor.

Combining music with exercise in dance such as tango, the release notes, may also help increase accessibility, enjoyability, and motivation, as well as improving mood and stimulating cognition.

Source: McGill University