Dancing with enough intensity can be a great source of cardio. It also helps develop flexibility and strength in ways that plain cardio can’t. Musical cues, multi-tasking and memory recall are at play here too, making dance both a mind and body workout, one that shows great promise for those with Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
A review published in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine looked at the many benefits of dance as physical therapy and exercise, specifically for patients with Parkinson’s disease symptoms. A slow-progressing neurodegenerative disorder, Parkinson’s disease is often marked by impaired balance and walking, and hallmark symptoms such as tremors of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face and slow, rigid movements.
The review concluded that dance is an effective alternative to traditional exercise in addressing symptoms of the disease. In particular, the study found that participants in an Argentine tango program made significant improvements in balance, and improvements in timed sit-to-stand tests, while those in a traditional exercise program did not. In addition, almost half of the tango group continued with classes after the study ended, while none in the other group did — some of the participants in the traditional exercise program even joined the tango group.
A separate study comparing tango, waltz/foxtrot and tai chi also showed that the tango group improved the most in timed sit-to-stand tests and forward and backward walking velocity. (Tai chi training was also very effective). Since tango uses walking as the basic step, it’s a good platform to repair walking ability. Though more research is needed to determine the long-term benefits of dance for Parkinson’s disease patients, it seems to meet many, if not all, of the recommended components for Parkinson’s disease exercise programs — making it a fun and effective alternative.