New Study Points to Dancing As Key to Balance and Fall Prevention

Happy old couple smiling dancing in a park on a sunny day

Dancing is about more than having fun—it’s about being active, especially as we age. And now, there’s another good reason to kick up your heels and cut a rug—dancing can help prevent falls!

According to the results of a meta-analysis published in JAMA Open recently, the researchers pooled data from 29 controlled studies involving more than 4,200 healthy persons over the age of 65. They looked at studies incorporating “dance-based mind-motor activities” that focused on coordinated upright movements, centered on music or rhythm, with unique choreography and social interactions with other like-minded persons. The researchers evaluated a number of different styles of dance such as folk dancing, ballroom dancing, line dancing, tai chi, and eurythmics.

Compared to persons of the same age who walked, practiced aerobics, seated exercise, and other forms of exercise, those who engaged in dance-based forms of exercise had a 37% reduction in risk of falling in eight of the 29 trials, and a 31% reduction in falling was noted in seven other trials. 

Multiple trials also demonstrated a significant improvement compared to control participants in lower body strength and overall balance, but not upper body strength.

Most importantly, the meta-analysis found that dancing three or more sessions per week—consistently over three to six months—was linked to greater health and wellness benefits as opposed to other forms of exercise for shorter periods of time.

The bulk of the studies in the meta-analysis noted at least 80% adherence for ongoing participation which is likely greater compared to other types of exercise programs. This is key because if you enjoy doing a particular form of exercise, like dance, you are more likely to continue it, and make it a part of your daily routine. Previous research has shown that exercise-based approaches are effective in improving balance, strength and gait—which are critical in reducing falls and related injuries among older persons.

Why is it important to prevent falls?

Every second of every day in the United States an older adult falls, making falls the number one cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In 2014 alone, older Americans experienced 29 million falls, causing seven million injuries and costing an estimated $31 billion in annual Medicare costs. Often, falls are caused by dizziness or balance disorders, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). With proper diagnosis and treatment from a specialist in vestibular disorders, these conditions can be successfully treated.

If you are a dancer, or you take up dancing, and you notice you have dizziness and balance problems, see your primary care provider to determine if there might be a medical explanation for the issue. Your provider then may refer you to an audiologist who specializes in dizziness and balance problems for further evaluation.  You don’t have to live with dizziness or vertigo.

Associated Audiologists offers a comprehensive dizziness and balance clinic. The clinic uses state-of-the-art technology to evaluate individuals suffering from dizziness, balance problems, and/or who have a history of falls related to inner-ear disorders. The program is staffed by Danielle Dorner, Au.D., Vestibular Audiologist, who sees patients at our Overland Park and Northland clinics.

For more information about dizziness and balance issues, download our free e-book, What to know about dizziness and imbalance.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Dorner, call 816-442-7831.