Dance Movements Boost Balance

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Remember dance class when we were kids? Not the social dances or square dance, but the free movement to music? Swiss researchers used those same types of movements with sen- iors. Specifically, they wanted to know whether frail elderly people who already had balance problems would benefit from Dalcroze Eurhythmics classes.

They assembled 134 seniors age 65 and older to participate for six months in clinical trials, while a control group kept on with their usual activities. Classes included just walking to music, then progressing to footwork and upper-body movements. Sometimes they included an object such as a ball. Researchers called this multi-tasking, and believed it would serve to improve balance functions.

At the end of the six months, the Dalcroze participants had better balance and walking functions, and only half the risk of a fall. Length of walking gait was more even. When the control group began classes six months later, they also developed the same balance skills as the first group by the time the classes were over. Six months later the first group was

shown to have retained their skills and ability. At this point, researchers don’t seem certain about why it works. Perhaps it has to do with the music and needing to stay in rhythm, which forces us to make certain movements at cer- tain intervals. One scientist called it a “motor- cognitive connection.” That same person rec- ommends ballroom dance for seniors because of the combination of the movement and music. If you’d like to see some of the movements, go to www.dalcroze.org.au and click Euryth- mics. Then click Video where it shows excerpts of children. For more examples, go to YouTube.com and put this in the search box:

Dalcroze eurhythmics

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e- mail to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2010 King Features Synd., Inc.

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