Physical inactivity is commonly observed among individuals aged ≥ 60 y. Identified barriers to sedentary older adults beginning activity include low self-efficacy, pre-existing medical conditions, physical limitations, time constraints, and culture. Dancing has the potential to be an attractive physical activity that can be adjusted to fit a target population's age, physical limitations, and culture.
This review examined the benefits to physical health of dance interventions among older adults.
Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, a systematic search using the PubMed database was conducted. Eighteen studies met the inclusion and exclusion criteria and were analyzed for type of intervention, the study's design, participants' demographics, and outcomes, including attrition.
The 18 articles reported on studies conducted in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Of the styles of dancing, 6 studies used ballroom, 5 used contemporary, 4 used cultural, 1 used pop, and 2 used jazz. Two studies targeted older adults with pre-existing medical conditions. The average age of participants ranged from 52-87 y. Researchers used a variety of measures to assess effectiveness: (1) 3 of 5 (60%) that used measures to assess flexibility showed significant positive results; (2) 23 of 28 (82%) that used measures of muscular strength and endurance showed significant positive changes; (3) 8 of 9 (89%) that used measures of balance showed significant positive changes; (4) 8 of 10 (80%) that used measures of cognitive ability showed significant positive changes; and (5) the one that measured cardiovascular endurance showed significant positive changes. Only 6 studies reported participation, and they found low attrition.
The findings suggest that dance, regardless of its style, can significantly improve muscular strength and endurance, balance, and other aspects of functional fitness in older adults. Future researchers may want to analyze the effects of dance on mental health and explore ways to make this intervention attractive to both genders. Standardizing outcome measures for dance would facilitate meta-analysis.