Pilot Dance Project Explores The Benefits of Dance Participation

The Centre for Elder Research is conducting a pilot project that explores the benefits of dance participation for individuals experiencing multiple chronic health conditions. Older adults are invited to participate in 12 weeks (two days a week) of complimentary dance classes. The classes will be led by a dance professional who will be providing modified instruction such as seated dancing.

In order to be eligible to participate in the dance program, the older adults must be 65 years of age and older. Both men and women are welcome! Participants must also be experiencing mobility issues and at least two other chronic health conditions.

Classes will run on Tuesday and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., starting Tuesday, April 4 and running until Thursday, June 22.

If you would like to know more about this program or to register for the classes, contact Kate Dupuis at 905-845-9430 extension 4229 or email Kate at kate.dupuis@sheridancollege.ca

See flyer for further details.


Dance & Enhanced Brain Plasticity

While music alone can unlock people with parkinsonism, and movement or exercise of any kind is also beneficial, an ideal combination of music and movement is provided by dance (and dancing with a partner, or in a social setting, brings to bear other therapeutic dimensions).
~ Oliver Sacks author of Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

Physical Activity
A Frontiers in Psychology article entitled New framework for rehabilitation – fusion of cognitive and physical rehabilitation: the hope for dancing reports that “intervention based human studies, with a focus on healthy older adults, have been able to show that exercise training can enhance brain plasticity and cognition. Specifically, greater executive, controlled, spatial and speed processes were linked to fitness training, with executive control showing the largest effect size.”

The same article explains that music invokes “the widespread activity of various brain regions related to sensorimotor, higher order cognitive and emotional processes. Such processes can include auditory processing, attention, memory and sensory-motor integration, leading to the involvement of networks that consist of frontal, temporal, parietal and subcortical regions. Music processing can also be quite a complex task, recruiting various brain regions that are associated with the different components found in music, including pitch, timbre, rhythm, melody, recognition, and emotion”.

The article concludes that dance has the same benefits as physical and music therapies. “Dance may be able to aid with both physical and cognitive impairments, particularly due to the combined nature of including both physical and cognitive stimulation. Not only does it incorporate physical and motor skill related activities, but it can also engage various cognitive functions such as perception, emotion, and memory. This may allow dance to have a positive impact on not only physical, but cognitive functioning as well.”

An added benefit to dance is its ability to “promote adherence” because it is such an enjoyable endeavor. According to the article “it has been estimated that over 50% of participants who begin an exercise program will drop out within the first 6 months. This is particularly prominent in older adults, who may initially be willing to participate in an exercise program, but only do so for the short term, eventually stopping. Unfortunately, the benefits of exercise require continued participation, making the issue of adherence that much more important.”

There are many initiatives that recognize the power of dance. A wonderful and inspiring example is the Dancing with Parkinson’s classes.

Canadian Study on the Benefit’s of Dancing with Parkinson’s

Banner-IMG_4076Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease. Movement is normally controlled
by dopamine, a chemical that carries signals between the nerves in the brain.
When cells that normally produce dopamine die, the symptoms of Parkinson’s appear.
Parkinson Society of Canada

Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) is collaborating with researchers from Ryerson and York Universities to conduct a 12-week dance program that will study the physical and neuropsychological effects of dance on individuals with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). For the pilot project, the first series of classes runs from September to December of 2013 and is know as DwP@NBS.

Previous research has indicated that dance may have the capacity to help alleviate some of the symptoms of PD. In order to better understand the benefits of dancing for individuals with PD the project proposes to “study how dance is able to seemingly bypass the neurodegeneration occurring in the PD brain and potentially facilitate improvement in movement in those with PD”.

According to CTV News “Rachel Bar, who attended the National Ballet School and now is a graduate student in clinical psychology at Ryerson University, pitched the idea of a dance class for people with Parkinson’s. Her former school, she said, jumped at the chance to offer dance to people with Parkinson’s, bringing on board the Mark Morris Group’s Dance for PD® and Dancing with Parkinson’s to help design and implement the course”.

Dance for PD® is a New York based non-profit collaboration between the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group that offers dance classes for individuals with PD. Individuals who participate in the dance classes “are empowered to explore movement and music in ways that are refreshing, enjoyable, stimulating and creative”.

Dancing with Parkinson’s is a Toronto based dance class designed by Sarah Robichaud “where those with Parkinson’s Disease can explore the potential of their own movement through choreography and improvisation.”

Dr. Joseph DeSouza, a neuroscientist at York University, will be working with volunteer dance participants at the Sherman Health Science Research Centre. DeSouza will be performing MRI brain imaging scans to study changes in brain activity following 12 weeks of learning and practicing dance moves.

“Researchers hope the brain scans will provide hard scientific evidence of neurological and physical benefits of dance to people with Parkinson’s, a disease that affects more than 100,000 Canadians and seven million people worldwide”.

Check out this video to see Dancing with Parkinson’s @ The National Ballet School in action.

In the News: Researchers Seek Ways to Minimize Muscle Loss in Older Adults

For those familiar with our dance project, this article will only underscore the importance of what we’re trying to accomplish at SERC.

In addition to weight-lifting exercises and possible prescription interventions, dance has enormous potential to regularly involve older adults who might not otherwise participate in traditional physical activity – and can be modified for any ability level. We’re entering our third phase of pilot research in our dance project where we’re involving older adults at a supportive housing site in Burlington. For more information, please check out our website!