A little cha cha cha or salsa can help older adults walk faster, improve their physical fitness and as a result may decrease the risk for heart disease than a health education programme, reveals a study.
The results showed that the dancers walked faster and were more physically active during their leisure time than before they joined the dancing programme.
Also, the dancers completed a 400-metres walk in just less than 392 seconds compared with almost 430 seconds at the start of the study.
Further, the level of leisure physical activity rose from 650 minutes to nearly a total of 818 minutes per week.
Those in the health education classes had a smaller improvements in their fitness — they finished the 400-metre walk in about 409 seconds at the end of the study compared with 419 seconds four months earlier; total time spent on weekly leisure physical activity increased from 522 minutes to 628 minutes over the course of the study.
"Scaling up such a culturally attuned, and what appears to be a fun intervention could have significant public health effects," said lead author Priscilla Vaisquez from the University of Illinois in US.
The four months of twice-weekly Latin dancing programme also engaged the participants on different levels – physical, cultural and emotional.
The dance class acted as their stress buster and help them interact and build community. This impacted their physical as well as emotional health and wellbeing, the researcher noted.
The researchers developed a dance programme called BAILAMOS, which a culturally-tailored, community-based lifestyle intervention that includes four different dance styles — merengue, bachata, cha cha cha and salsa — led by the dance instructor, with more complex choreography as the program progressed.
Participants were randomly assigned to either participate in a dance programme twice a week for four months or to attend a health education programme.
The researchers tested whether community-based intervention focused on Latin dancing could benefit 54 Spanish-speaking adults (about 65 years old, 80 percent Mexican female) who were not very physically active.
All participants completed questionnaires about their leisure time physical activity and a 400-meter walk test at the start and end of the study.
The research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology/Lifestyle 2016 Scientific Sessions in Arizona.