Even if you’re out of shape, overweight or older, dancing can help make big improvements in your overall fitness, according to new findings published by the American Heart Association. The findings excited researchers because very few studies so far have directly quantified the effects of dance on human health, Time.com reports.
For the study, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago teamed up with a dance instructor to create a Latin dance program for 57 Latinos around age 65 and assigned them to a four-month program. (Scientists chose older Latinos for the study because this group is generally less physically active and has higher rates of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, compared with other groups.)
Half the group took dance classes called BAILAMOS: a mix of merengue, cha-cha, bachata and salsa designed for older adults. The other half was enrolled in a health education program, which served as the study control group.
At the end of the study, scientists gave a mobility test to both groups. Researchers found that people who took the dance class improved their fitness three times more than those who didn’t. What’s more, while the health education control group improved their time for a 400-meter walk they took at the beginning of the study by 10 seconds, those who danced bettered their time for the same walk by 38 seconds.
“The finding is not really novel in the Latino community, but it was novel in the scientific community,” said David Marquez, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the study’s co-author.
Not into Latin dance? Click here to learn more about Masala Bhangra, one of the fastest-growing dance workout trends in the fitness industry.