Can dancing delay the effects of Parkinson's disease? This says a study

A recent study found that dancing can help slow the progression of motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease. What do the researchers say?

Last update: August 30, 2021

Dancing has become a form of movement therapy for Parkinson's disease patients. In particular, its practice is associated with positive effects on mental well-being and motor skills. A recent study released through Brain sciences confirms these benefits and suggests its practice as part of treatment for people with this condition.

The research, conducted by Joseph DeSouza and Karolina Bearss, from the University of York (Canada), determined that Parkinson's patients who participated in weekly dance training had less motor impairment and improvements in speech, balance and stiffness in compared to those who did not do any dance exercises. Do you want to know more about it? Here are all the details.

Dancing helps Parkinson's disease patients

Dance to music about 4 hours a week it can help alleviate many of the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson's disease. That was the conclusion of a recent study by Joseph DeSouza, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of York (Canada), and doctoral candidate Karolina Bearss.

According to experts, dancing helps to stop the progression of motor and cognitive impairment suffered by people with this disease. Likewise, it has a positive impact against other clinical manifestations associated with speech, balance, tremors, and stiffness. It even brings benefits on an emotional level.

“The experience of acting and being in a studio environment with dance instructors seems to provide benefits for these people. In general, what we know is that dance activates areas of the brain in those who do not have Parkinson's. For those with the disease, even with a mild motor impairment, dancing makes them feel better about themselves » – Explain the experts.

The motor symptoms of Parkinson's can start early and affect normal performance in activities of daily life.

Study details

Through this research, scientists wanted to create a new long-term neurorehabilitation strategy in order to minimize Parkinson's symptoms. Therefore, for three and a half years they observed the impact of learning and practicing dance to music in a small group of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD).

Specifically, 16 participants with mild to moderate PD (11 men and 5 women), with an average age of 69 years, were studied between October 2014 and November 2017. In turn, they were compared with another group of 16 patients with EP who did not take dance classes.

Dance group patients they were matched for age and according to the severity of the disease. Thus, they participated in a 1.25 hour dance class at the National Ballet School of Canada (NBS) and in the churches of Trinity St. Paul, as part of the program Dance for Parkinson’s Canada.

To be more exact, the classes were developed with live music during a seated warm-up, followed by a work on the bar and, finally, with movements on the floor. In turn, the researchers made records through videos and carried out questionnaires and statistical analyzes.

The result?

In motor scores, the dancing patients had a slower annual rate of change. Also, when the measurement was done by day, showed less motor impairment compared to non-dancers. Among other things, DeSouza highlighted the following:

“Dance is a multisensory environment that differs from ordinary exercise. It incorporates and stimulates the auditory, tactile, visual and kinesthetic senses, and adds an interactive social aspect.

So, beyond reducing the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson's disease, dancing contributes to the feeling of general well-being. "It's almost like a complementary therapy that helps them cope with whatever they are coping with" Says DeSouza.

Today, much of the interventions against Parkinson's include pharmacological treatments. Meanwhile, exercises and additional therapy to stimulate the brain are in the background. Therefore, DeSouza hopes that these data will shed light on alternatives for these patients, although more research is still required.

Other studies on dance and Parkinson's disease

Although the study by professionals from the University of York (Canada) was the first of its kind, other previous research also spoke of the benefits of dancing in Parkinson's disease. For example, a study shared in European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine concluded that dance improves balance and gait function, as well as the quality of life of patients with mild to moderate PD.

Meanwhile, through Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine It was reported that dances, such as the Argentine tango and the ballroom dance, benefit balance and coordination in people with this disease. Also, a review in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews He states that dance not only has effects on a sensorimotor level, but also on a cognitive, psychological and social level.

Dance classes activate different areas and not only motor ones; hence its usefulness in neurological and degenerative diseases.

What is there to remember?

While studies on dance and Parkinson's disease are ongoing, for now the evidence shows positive results on this type of complementary therapies. Of course, before starting your practice, it is necessary to evaluate each case in particular by the hand of the neurologist and the physiotherapist. Thus, a safe environment for the patient is ensured.

Similarly, it must be considered that these therapies do not replace the prescribed medical or pharmacological treatment. It is essential to respect all the recommendations given by the professional to avoid complications.