Tag Archives: Exercise

Effects of Dance on Health-Related Quality of Life

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With the weather getting warmer in Sao Paulo, Brazil, many Brazilians are getting ready to get out and dance in celebration! One dance group in particular, Arte Par Dancar, has been garnering a lot of media attention for their dance moves… and for their age.

Apart from being fun, dance and movement is a form of exercise that has proven health benefits for older adults. Movement can not only improve quality of life, but certain exercises like Tai Chi, can reduce the risk of falls.

A team of scientists in Brazil set out to understand how specifically dance can benefit older adults. They found that eight weeks of ballroom dancing significantly strengthened the leg muscles of the women who participated in their study. Weak leg muscles are correlated with falls; therefore, strengthening leg muscles is a positive impact of dance. Older women seem more likely to take up dance as an activity, although it is unclear why this trend exists.

Another research study compared the health benefits of Tai chi to those of ballroom dancing. It found that senior ballroom dancers had better balance with their eyes closed, and seniors practicing Tai Chi had better dynamic balance including exponentially improved speed.

While different forms of dance and movement have varied benefits, studies show that dancers of all types have lower BMI’s, longer stride lengths, and higher bone mineral density. In addition to the physical benefits of dancing, there are clear psychological benefits, such as greater connectedness, improved mood, and higher levels of energy.

Recreational older dancers have also noted feeling more engaged in their community, and feeling a greater sense of purpose. An Arte Par Dancar member stated, “Now I am happy here, I dance. I have fun with everyone.” Another 86-year-old member of the dance troop said, “We move a lot doing lots of things. We already passed through our old person stage, now we are young.”

Dance and movement-based exercise is a fun way for older adults to become healthier and widen their social networks. This trend has proven so beneficial that Brazil is not the only country where older adults are learning to Samba!

Grace Mandel is pursuing a Master of Public Health in Health Systems and Policy at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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Exercise, Hip Hop-eration and the Impact of Dance on New Zealand’s Elderly

As people age, body systems and cognitive functional abilities decline at various levels. A person’s mobility is also compromised, making it hard to maintain balance, strength and stability. It is widely known that exercise contributes to increased longevity as well as a diverse range of benefits that promote optimal and holistic health for all.

The effectiveness of frequent physical activity and exercise can reduce the risk of falls, strengthen muscles and promote regeneration within the body. Universal exercise guidelines suggest that multi-modal or varied forms of physical activity are the most appropriate for older people. Multi-modal programs for this population generally include cardiovascular training, strengthening exercises, and flexibility and balance workouts.

Photo Credit: Justin C.
Photo Credit: Justin C.

In New Zealand, there is a hip hop street-dance group comprising seven older adults ranging from age 71 to 96. Called the world’s oldest dance group by Guinness World Records, Hip Op-eration Crew are the current world title holders, performing hip hop dance to promote positive attitudes to ageing. The group has various disabilities including blindness, deafness, arthritis and heart disease but dancing helps to manage these conditions as any kind of physical activity benefits overall health.

When a person exercises, the brain releases chemicals called endorphins to fight stress. “These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria”, according to Fast Company. So exercise produces endorphins that make people feel good. This is important because older people who are struggling with confidence or low spirits can implement an exercise routine as recommended by their doctor.

To date, Hip Op-eration has garnered positive responses worldwide including features in news media. The group was founded in 2012 by Billie Jordan who also manages the crew. In fact, the group are neighbours from Waiheke Island of New Zealand who use hip hop dance to form stronger connections with young people. Jordan recently gave an inspirational Ted Talk that was followed by a performance from Hip Op-eration. The crew has also performed and/ or competed at other events including:

  • New Zealand National Hip Hop Championships in 2013 and 2014
  • World Hip-Hop Dance Championship in 2013
  • Taipei Arena, Taiwan to an audience of 15,000 in 2014

These achievements have resulted in a documentary called “Hip Hop-eration” which chronicles the group’s memorable adventures including their performance at the World Hip Hop Dance Championship in Las Vegas.

Hip Hop-eration won two Moa awards for Best Documentary and Best Director as well as glowing reviews from newspapers in New Zealand. The crew shows that a person is never too old to have fun and exercise is important for older people with or without disabilities. As the founders of Hip Hop believed, it is not about limitations but about possibilities – regardless of age or physical ability. Check out the trailer for Hip Hop-eration!

Sophie Okolo is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Global Health Aging.

Hazel Dompreh is currently a Diversional/ Recreational Therapist at a nursing home in New South Wales, Australia.

The Hidden Health Crisis of Alzheimer’s Disease Among Older Adults

Alzheimer’s disease is “the most under-recognized public health crisis of the 21st century,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Only 45 percent of people with Alzheimer’s are told about their diagnosis by a healthcare provider, compared to more than 90 percent of people with the four most common types of cancer. And of the top 10 causes of death in the USA, Alzheimer’s is the only one that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.

Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay

What is a public health crisis? The World Health Organization (WHO) uses the term “crisis” for a “situation that is perceived as difficult.” A crisis may at times elude public knowledge, contain different levels and layers of intensity, and have the potential to reach levels beyond what is predicted. For example, specific events such as the 2014 Ebola virus epidemic and 2001 anthrax attacks are characterized as public health crises. Issues like addiction and obesity often have the same distinction.

Alzheimer’s fits the definition of a public health crisis. People who have the disease are impacted, along with their loved ones and the entire healthcare system. In the coming years, the number of Alzheimer’s diagnoses and deaths is expected to increase. The financial toll of the disease on families and the economy is also expected to rise, worsening an already difficult situation.

What Is Being Done?

The CDC’s BRFSS Survey

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), collects data at the state and local level to target and build health promotion activities. Because the data tracks the impact of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, it can be a strong tool for informing the community about these trends and how to respond. The survey can also help policymakers with decisions involving Alzheimer’s.

Initiatives Promoting Cognitive Health

Enhanced cognitive activity — along with good physical health, exercise, nutrition and social engagement — can potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline and possibly prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The following initiatives represent some of the ways that federal agencies are addressing the crisis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Healthy Brain Initiative

The CDC and the Alzheimer’s Association organized the Healthy Brain Initiative, which seeks to better understand cognitive impairment. The initiative targets interventions to improve cognitive health and implementation of positive actions into public health practice.

According to the Public Health Road Map Report for 2013-2018, the initiative focuses on ensuring that people with dementia are aware of their diagnosis as well as reducing preventable hospitalizations among patients with dementia. Other action items are divided into four domains: monitor and evaluate public health data; educate and empower the nation about causes of disease, injury and disability; develop policy and mobilize partnerships on cognitive health; and assure a competent public health workforce.

Healthy People 2020

The Healthy People program establishes national health-related goals set by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The most recent 10-year agenda for public health topics and objectives listed dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease, as a new topic area for the program.

The primary goal in Healthy People 2020 is reducing morbidity and costs related to dementia as well as maintaining or enhancing the quality of life for those with dementia. Other areas where progress is important include early diagnosis, interventions to delay and prevent onset of disease, better ways to manage Alzheimer’s when other chronic conditions are present, and understanding lifestyle factors that influence risk.

The Role of Education

Education is critical for the public health crisis of Alzheimer’s disease. This can lead to greater public understanding of the disease, resulting in more support for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Enhanced public education can also create additional momentum for research on Alzheimer’s. Hence, public health professionals who are trained to help with Alzheimer’s can make a difference, from investigating the disease to providing resources in their community.

The rest of the article, including the state of Alzheimer’s disease, is available on Rivier University Online.

Brian Neese has been writing about online education for more than five years, with specialties in health care, business and education. In his spare time, he enjoys sports, movies and spending time with family and friends.