Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1) Every 11 seconds, an older adult is taken to the emergency room because of a fall.
Falls are extremely dangerous for older adults – in fact, they are “the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans.” (1) For seniors, falls threaten health and safety and can lead to multiple injuries.
But, falling is avoidable. And, according to one recent study, avoiding falls can be as easy (and fun) as…dancing!
Researchers in the study found that activities like ballroom dancing, tai chi, and folk dancing led to a 31% reduction in falls for people aged 65 and older. (2) Dancing is great training for keeping dynamic balance and improving reflexes and reaction time.
Dr. Allison Mays says that “causes of falls can range from reaction time slowed by aging, vision changes that affect balance, blood pressure changes and medication.” (2) She warns that “falls are not normal, even in older adults” and advises that seniors who have experienced a fall should talk with their physicians.
Dancing is a wonderful option for seniors because it’s a fun and enjoyable way to exercise. Seniors who have fallen in the past are often scared of future falls, and for that reason, limit their activities and exercise. But, especially for seniors, exercise is essential.
Mays says “The number one change an older person can make to prevent falls is exercise.” (2) Dancing helps to prevent falls, but that’s not all. Dancing can have a wide variety of benefits for seniors.
Dancing stimulates physical and cognitive processes, making it a great therapy for seniors at risk for dementia. It activates many different regions of the brain, improves coordination, and is great exercise.
In one study about leisure activities and dementia, researchers discovered that dancing was associated with a reduced risk of dementia. In fact, “dancing was the only physical activity associated with a lower risk of dementia.” (3)
Dancing has special benefits in the brain, as this study proved. Surprisingly, dancing was more effective even than reading! The study showed that “regular dancing reduced the risk of dementia by 76%, twice as much as reading.” (4) And, you don’t even need to go to a class! Dancing at home or going out dancing has the same effect as attending a dance class.
If you have ever moved to the beat of your favorite song or danced with friends or your special someone, you know that dancing is not just fun, but it also improves your mood. Dancing can take your mind off things that are bothering you and bring more moments of happiness into your day.
One study tested the results of dancing on depression in nursing home residents. The residents went to an hour-long dance class every week for 3 months. The results were very positive – researchers found that the seniors who participated in the classes had fewer symptoms of depression and were prescribed fewer anti-depressants.
Researchers found that dance-based exercise reduced the number of depressive symptoms in nursing home residents. (5). Dancing is a great social activity that gives seniors the opportunity to make friends and make connections with other people, two things that are important in preventing depression and other mental health issues.
Seniors often have low fitness levels, which puts them at a higher risk for depression. Dancing is not only great exercise, but it also prevents depressive symptoms – a double whammy of benefits!
Because dancing is a form of exercise, it also brings tremendous physical benefits. Dancing improves your muscle strength in your lower body, improves your balance, and increases your lungs and breathing. (6) Dancing can help you stay physically fit and even lose weight.
It’s a great way to burn calories and work out your muscles, especially your heart muscles. You can move at your own pace, and you won’t even know you’re working out because you’ll be having so much fun!
Dancing really does it all – it’s great exercise, it prevents falls, it improves mood and prevents depression, and it increases muscle strength and flexibility. You’re probably thinking, “Great! Where can I sign up?”
If you’re looking for an in-person class, try checking out your local senior center or doing a quick internet search for local places to dance where you live. It might be hard to find classes now in the age of COVID, but don’t be discouraged.
Nowadays, there’s lots of options for dance classes and socials online through Zoom. Search for a type of dance you’d like to learn or practice, and sign up for a Zoom class and dance in your living room!
If you’re looking for free classes, one option is to join the free Zoom dance class offered by Revival 4 Fortitude. They are an organization that promotes dancing and creative movement for everyone.
Classes are offered every day of the week via Zoom, and if you live in New York City, on Sundays they have free in-person classes as well. To learn more, check out their website and sign up today. https://www.dvpnyc.org/on-line-zoom-classes/
Grab your dancing shoes, put on your favorite music, and start dancing today. It’s not just great exercise, it’s fun exercise and it’s wonderful for your body and mind.