— by Jeff Jurmain, MA
Dancing is definitely fun, but did you know it’s a therapy unto itself? Two new U.S. studies have uncovered proof: dance-based therapy can improve balance and gait in older adults. This translates into better functionality among older adults, and that means a lower risk of falling and possible bone fractures.
This creative intervention is no joke: dance therapy has the potential to significantly reduce falls that often land an older adult in the hospital. It’s another alternative therapy that takes its cues from something people love to do, much like cinema therapy.
In the new studies, researchers used a dance-therapy program called “The Lebed Method.” This style includes a combination of low-impact dance steps choreographed to music. Instructors led each session and help to adjust it to the specific needs of those in dance therapy.
Most recently, a study used 18 sessions of dance therapy, spread over two months. The older adults involved reported back that they enjoyed the sessions and wished to continue dance therapy. Thus, not only does this alternative therapy help with balance and gait and prevent serious injury in those susceptible, but it’s also enjoyable. It’s something people want to do. In this, it improves quality of life, an important side benefit of any good therapy.
Those older adults who can stand and move about during dance therapy were able to increase their walking speed and balance. These two factors are the biggest in terms of preventing a fall.
Two years ago, researchers conducted a six-week pilot study about dance therapy in St. Louis. Called “Dance-Based Therapy in a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly,” it was published in Nursing Administration Quarterly. More than half of the 11 participants came back reporting that they had improvements in gait and balance.
The Lebed Method is also known as “Healthy Steps.” Because it was able to help its founders improve range of motion and boost spirits, the program was shared with hospitals. Now, Healthy Steps is used by many cancer patients and in nursing homes worldwide. This latest study is believed to be the first to examine the benefits of the program among seniors.
Speak with your physician, physiotherapist, or local hospital administrators to see if dance therapy is an option in your area. For more information or guidance, visit the American Dance Therapy Association at www.adta.org.