Dancing to music may be beneficial in slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease

Old woman dancing to music
New research demonstrates the usefulness of dancing to music in slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Various symptoms of Parkinson’s disease were explored in a study to see how dancing to music affected them.
  • As a result of the findings, it is possible that dancing to music can slow the progression of physical and psychological symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.
  • According to the researchers, the findings could be used to build long-term rehabilitation programmes to assist patients in managing their illness.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurological condition that affects the ability to move. The symptoms of this condition normally appear gradually and worsen over time.

In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, people may experience shaking, stiffness, and trouble walking, as well as difficulties with balance and coordination. Individuals may also report difficulty speaking, recalling memories, and feeling fatigued as the illness worsens.

Previous study has showed that taking dancing courses can help people with Parkinson’s disease improve their walking speed, balance, and movement. However, the majority of these studies were conducted over short periods of time and did not contain widely-used methods for diagnosing the illness, such as the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), which is extensively used in the United States .

Knowing how dance courses affect Parkinson’s disease over a lengthy period of time may enable researchers to develop long-term rehabilitation programmes to assist persons with the condition in managing their symptoms.

Researchers from York University in Canada have undertook a study to see whether weekly dance practise had a long-term impact on the motor and nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

“In general, what we know is that dance engages brain areas in people who do not have Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Joseph DeSouza, senior author of the article, adds that motor impairment can have a negative influence on everyday functioning and self-esteem in those who have Parkinson’s disease, even if the disease is moderate.

When these motor symptoms get severe, many people become isolated as a result since they do not want to leave their homes anymore. These motor symptoms are associated with additional psychological disorders such as sadness and social isolation, and the symptoms do worsen as time goes on as a result. Our research indicates that training in dance and music can help to slow this process while also improving their daily life and function,” he continues.

The findings of the researchers have been published in the journal Brain Sciences.

Weekly dance classes

The investigators recruited 16 persons with moderate Parkinson’s disease in Toronto, Ontario, with an average age of 69 years and a mean age of 69 years. Between 2014 and 2017, participants took part in weekly dance courses that lasted 1.25 hours each week for three years.

Various dance genres, including modern, ballet, tap, folk, and social dancing, were used in the aerobic and anaerobic movements that were performed during the workouts.

A sustained period of aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, involves movement that raises the heart rate for an extended period of time. Anaerobic exercises, on the other hand, are those that need rapid, intense bursts of energy over a short period of time — for example, jumping and heavy weight lifting.

Additionally, the scientists followed 16 persons who did not take part in dancing courses as part of the Parkinson’s Progression Marker Initiative, a longitudinal study effort that is attempting to find signs of Parkinson’s disease. They matched each person in this group to each participant in the dancing group based on age, gender, severity of Parkinson’s disease symptoms, and duration of the disease.

Throughout the study time, the scientists employed the UPDRS to evaluate the participants’ psychological and motor symptoms, as well as components of everyday living such as speech, chewing, and swallowing, among others.

The researchers assessed the dancers’ motor skills before they started courses in order to establish a baseline. Immediately following the start of the lessons, they requested the dancers to participate in weekly surveys that evaluated motor and psychological components of daily living. Motor problems such as dyskinesia (involuntary, unpredictable motions of the face and torso) and activity levels were also evaluated.

Individuals who took part in weekly dance sessions reported considerable improvements in their ability to speak, as well as in their tremors, balance, and stiffness In contrast to those in the nondance group, neither mobility nor psychological symptoms deteriorated over the course of three years.

Motor degeneration is often most severe in the first 5 years following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. The researchers went on to study their data in order to determine whether or not dancing classes could have an impact on motor degeneration throughout this time period. They discovered that after 5 years of dancing training, individuals’ motor functions were likely to be more or less the same as they were before.

Exercising has neuroprotective properties.

In order to explain their findings, the researchers assert that dance training may have effects that are similar to those of high-intensity training workouts  (HIIT). The use of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been demonstrated to boost levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the blood, a protein that may have protective benefits against Parkinson’s disease neurodegeneration.

According to other research, dance engages areas of the brain that are involved in motor control and coordination. These same areas are typically damaged by Parkinson’s disease, which may explain why the individuals’ motor symptoms have improved.

Exercise programmes that are longer than 16 weeks in duration have also been demonstrated to lower anxiety, which may account for some of the improvement in the dancing group’s mental health problems.

Psychological aspects may have been positively influenced by the socialisation, support, and group dynamics that took place during the lessons, according to the researchers’ findings.

The experts come to the conclusion that dancing to music may be advantageous as an adjunct to conventional Parkinson’s disease therapy regimens.

According on the findings of this exploratory study, researchers will be able to determine whether they can utilise the same procedures in future randomised control trials to develop long-term rehabilitation programmes for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Karen Lee, Ph.D., CEO of Parkinson Canada, who was not involved in the study, said in a statement to Medical News Today that the preliminary findings were encouraging because exercise and healthful activities are vital for persons with Parkinson’s. The findings of this study are part of a growing body of research that is investigating how activities affect both motor and nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Christine M. Stahl (NYU Langone Health) is also a clinical assistant professor in the Division of Movement Disorders and is the director of the post-doctoral fellowship programme at the Fresco Institute for Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders, and she spoke with Medical News Today about the research findings. She expressed herself as follows:

“This study only included people with mild-to-moderate Parkinson’s disease, and therefore, conclusions apply only to those already diagnosed with Parkinson’s. These conclusions cannot be extrapolated to at-risk people. For [people with] Parkinson’s disease, however, these are very encouraging results for a nonpharmacologic treatment option to slow disease progression.”

Dr. Katherine Fletcher, Research Manager at Parkinson’s UK, went on to say, “Many people with Parkinson’s disease have told us that exercise and physical activity can be equally as helpful as treatment in terms of controlling their symptoms.”

We encourage people with Parkinson’s disease to experiment with different types of exercise because there is no one-size-fits-all approach. “There is currently limited research to support specific types of exercise being more beneficial than others for people with Parkinson’s disease, so we encourage individuals to explore what works best for them.”

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