For seniors, dancing needn’t be just for fun, it can also be therapeutic.

Two recent studies conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri (UM) found that participation in dance-based therapy can improve the balance and gait in older adults.

Improved functionality among seniors can decrease their risk of falling and reduce costly injuries.

“Creative interventions such as dance-based therapy have the potential to significantly reduce falls in older persons,” said Jean Krampe, registered nurse and doctoral student in the Sinclair School of Nursing.

“In the studies, we found improved levels of balance, gait and overall functionality among seniors who participated in regular dance-therapy sessions. Nursing and eldercare professionals can help move these programmes into practice to reduce the detrimental burden caused by falls.” Jean Krampe added.

The researchers used a dance-therapy programme called The Lebed Method (TLM), which includes a combination of low-impact dance steps choreographed to music. Sessions were led by certified TLM instructors and adjusted to fit the specific needs of the seniors who participated.

The most recent study was conducted with residents at TigerPlace, an independent-living community developed by MU nursing researchers to help seniors.

The study included 18 dance sessions offered over a two-month period. Participants reported that they enjoyed the sessions and wanted to continue the programme.

“We found that many seniors are eager to participate and continue to come back after attending sessions because they really enjoy it,” Krampe said.

“Among seniors who stand up and move during sessions, we found that dance therapy can increase their walking speed and balance, which are two major risk factors for falling,” Krampe added.

In 2008, Krampe and MU researchers conducted a six-week pilot study with the Alexian Brothers PACE Program (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) in St. Louis. More than half of the participants self-reported improvements in gait and balance.

TLM, also called Healthy Steps, was created by Shelley Lebed Davis and her two brothers who sought to improve range of motion and boost the spirits of their mother who was recovering from breast cancer.

After seeing successful results, they shared the programme with hospitals. Today Healthy Steps is used by many cancer patients and in nursing homes worldwide. The MU study is the first to examine the benefits of the programme among seniors.

The first study was published in Nursing Administration Quarterly.

RELATED NEWS

Gentle power of Tai chi March 20, 2010

Life me up! February 14, 2010

When your knees hurtApril 2, 2010

More In: Rx | Health | Sci-Tech | Medicine