Washington D.C.: Latin dancing may add up to more than a fun party thing as a new study has found that a little cha cha cha or salsa is good for your heart's health.
The University of Illinois study showed that a four-month dance program, called BAILAMOS, helped older Latino adults walk faster and improved their physical fitness, which may reduce their risk for heart disease.
Researchers tested whether a 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. Participants were randomly assigned to either participate in a dance program twice a week for four months or to attend a health education program. All participants completed questionnaires about their leisure time physical activity and a 400-meter walk test at the start and end of the study.
After four months of twice-weekly Latin dancing, researchers found that dancers walked faster and were more physically active during their leisure time than before they started dancing. Dancers completed a 400-meter walk in just less than 392 seconds compared with almost 430 seconds at the start of the study.
The study also found that 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 improvement in their fitness; they finished the 400-meter 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 study author Priscilla Vasquez.
Vasquez noted that this program engaged the older adults 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 wellbeing."
The study has been presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology/Lifestyle 2016 Scientific Sessions.