To define the cognitive and physical attributes of regular social dancing so as to help establish its health benefits and help plan future dance interventions to prevent adverse outcomes in older adults such as falls, slow gait, and dementia.DESIGN
Cross-sectional survey with two-group comparison.SETTING
Bronx County, New York.PARTICIPANTS
Twenty-four cognitively normal older social dancers (OSDs) were compared with 84 age-, sex-, and education-matched older nondancers (ONDs) participating in a community-based study.MEASUREMENTS
Motor and cognitive performance was assessed using validated clinical and quantitative methods.RESULTS
There were no differences in the frequency of participation in other cognitive and physical leisure activities, chronic illnesses, or falls between OSDs and ONDs. Cognitive test performance was not different between OSDs and ONDs. OSDs had better balance but not strength than ONDs. OSDs had a longer mean stride ± standard deviation than ONDs (117.8 ± 10.5 cm vs 103.4 ± 20.2 cm, P = .008) on quantitative gait assessment, with a more stable pattern during walking with reduced stance time (63.9% vs 65.9%, P = .01), longer swing time (36.1% vs 34.1%, P = .01), and shorter double support time (27.9% vs 30.9%, P = .03).CONCLUSION
The results of this study suggest that long-term social dancing may be associated with better balance and gait in older adults.