Canadian researchers believe dancing the Argentine tango can improve motor skills and aid mental prowess among people with Parkinson’s disease (PD).
Investigators from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, McGill University and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre looked at changes in patients’ motor abilities and non-motor symptoms following a 12-week tango course.
The study looked at whether a social and physical activity linked to music, such as tango, could have possible therapeutic value for PD patients who characteristically suffer from motor and mental dysfunctions.
Motors symptoms associated with PD include tremor, rigidity, gait dysfunction with non-motor characteristics often associated with depression, fatigue, and cognitive degeneration.
In the study, forty men and women were recruited from Movement Disorders Clinics of the McGill University Health Centre. All were diagnosed with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, meaning the illness developed from an unknown origin. The intervention included studio classes with two professional dance teachers.
“There’s accumulating evidence that habitual physical activity is associated with a lower risk of developing PD, which suggests a potential slowing of PD progression,” said Dr. Silvia Rios Romenets, lead researcher in the study with a special interest in Parkinson’s disease and dance therapy.
“In the study, we found the tango was helpful in significantly improving balance and functional mobility, and seemed to encourage patients to appreciate their general course of therapy. We also found modest benefits in terms of patients’ cognitive functions and in reducing fatigue. No significant changes were detected in overall motor functions.”
Argentine tango is a challenging endeavor. Researchers believe the skills necessary to perform the dance may be particularly helpful for improving balance and functional mobility in patients with PD.
The dance requires specific steps that involve rhythmically walking forward and backward. This may be particularly helpful for walking difficulties especially for freezing of gait and to prevent backward falls.
In addition, tango requires working memory, control of attention, and multitasking to incorporate newly learned and previously learned dance elements, to stay in rhythm with the music, and maneuver around others on the dance floor.
People diagnosed with PD are often turned off by traditional exercise programs, and more than half of PD patients fail to get their recommended daily dose of physical activity.
There is, however, a connection between music and the dopamine systems in the brain, which are pivotal for establishing and maintaining behavior. So, combining music with exercise in dance such as the tango, can increase accessibility, enjoyability, and motivation, as well as improving mood and stimulating cognition, saidresearchers.
The social interaction and social support developed while learning and then dancing the tango improves a person’s outlook on life while promoting compliance with a physical activity.
Source: McGill University/EurekAlert!