A 4-month Latin dance program helped older Latino adults walk faster and improved their overall physical fitness, researchers reported at the American Heart Association’s EPI/Lifestyle Scientific Sessions.
“Scaling up such a culturally attuned, and what appears to be a fun intervention, could have significant public health effects,” Priscilla Vásquez, MPH, researcher at the University of Illinois, Chicago, said in a press release. “There are many barriers older Latino adults face, and they are busy with caregiving and other responsibilities, so often physical activity takes a back seat and many times the opportunities are unavailable.”
Vásquez and colleagues investigated whether Bailamos, a Latin-dancing, community-based lifestyle intervention developed by David X. Marquez, PhD, and Miguel Mendez at the University of Illinois, could improve the physical fitness of 54 Spanish-speaking adults. Participants (80% women of Mexican descent; average age, 65 years) were randomly assigned to attend the dance program twice weekly for 4 months or a health education program. At the beginning and end of the study, each participant completed the CHAMPS physical activity questionnaire, which questioned them about leisure-time physical activity; they were also required to complete a 400-m walk test.
The dance instructor taught the merengue, bachata, cha-cha and the salsa, adding in more complex choreography as the classes continued. By the end of the 4 months, the dancers could walk faster (P < .05) and were more physically active (P < .05). According to the press release, the dancers completed the walking test in less than 392 seconds at the end of the study, an improvement from the nearly 430 seconds it took during the initial test. They also reported being physically active approximately 818 minutes per week, an increase from the 650 minutes per week they reported at the start of the study.
“This program engaged them on many levels, physically, culturally and emotionally. Anecdotally, I’ve heard participants say attending dance class is their stress relief. They also interact with others and build community. This impacts their physical as well as emotional health and well-being,” Vásquez said.
Participants in the health education program also saw improvements, but in smaller increments. Their walking test time decreased from 419 seconds to 409 seconds and total leisure-time physical activity rose from 522 minutes to 628 minutes per week by the end of the study.
The research team aims next to investigate whether Bailamos can also reduce mild cognitive impairment in older Latinos, according to the release.
“We are interested in using [MRI] to see if dancing positively affects their brains,” Vásquez said.
The 2020 Impact Goals of the American Heart Association includes an emphasis on increasing physical activity. The AHA recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or at least 75 minutes of intense physical activity each week, or a combination of intensity throughout the week. – by Tracey Romero
Vasquez P, et al. Abstract P246. Presented at: EPI/Lifestyle Scientific Sessions; March 1-4, 2016; Phoenix.
isclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.