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You make me feel like dancing (for bone health)

Research 24 Jan 2020
Bone health 800 1

A Taiwanese study has found that dancing three times a week provided a range of physical benefits to postmenopausal women, including improved bone density in the hip, as well as improved muscle strength and agility.

Researchers from Taiwan’s Chiayi Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang Gung University, Chung Cheng University and Po Cheng Orthopedic Institute conducted the observational study on a group of postmenopausal women, all with diagnosed lower bone density, known as osteopenia.

A woman with osteopenia has a risk of broken bones that is higher than normal, but not as high risk as a woman with the more severe condition called osteoporosis, which is a loss of bone strength that increases the risk of broken bones.

While the loss of bone density is a normal part of ageing, women are affected at three times the rate of men due to the loss of oestrogen at menopause. Hormones such as oestrogen are important in maintaining bone strength.

The benefits for bone health and strength from weight-bearing exercise – exercise that makes you bear your own body weight, such as tennis, walking and running – are well established.

Aerobic dance is not only a weight-bearing exercise, but a high-energy one that also improves cardiovascular endurance, balance, and agility. Importantly, for older women at increased risk of falls and bone breaks, it is a safe exercise with a relatively low incidence of injuries.

For the Taiwanese study, published in 2019, eligible women were recruited from the country’s rural south to take part. Ranging in age from 45 to 85, they were separated into two groups – the control group (CON) and the exercise group (EX).

Prior to the trial, a physical fitness assessment showed there were no differences between the CON and the EX groups in bone mass density (BMD), muscular strength, balance, cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, muscle endurance, power and agility.

While both groups were given equal daily doses of calcium and vitamin D3 – two nutrients also essential for good bone health – the EX group also did aerobic dance classes three times a week for 24 weeks.

Each 60-minute dance class began with 10 minutes of mild warm-up activities, followed by 35 minutes of aerobic dance and ending with 10-15 minutes of cool-down activities.

In the final analysis of the study, 80 women in total – 40 from each group – were included.

After the program, weight and body mass index (BMI) were shown to be lower in the EX group from their starting point.

However, the major finding was that the women in the EX group showed “significantly improved” femoral neck bone mass density, grip strength, sidestep, and reaction time.

The results suggest that aerobic dance is a safe effective and efficient way to improve health in postmenopausal women, says Jean Hailes for Women’s Health specialist women’s health GP, Dr Marnie Newman.

“This study adds to our knowledge of ways of reducing the chance of sustaining an osteoporotic fracture. Important risk factors are one’s bone strength and one’s likelihood of falling. Improving BMD as well as increasing muscle strength and balance therefore reduce the chance of a break occurring. This small short-term study suggests that high intensity aerobic dancing is a safe and effective way to improve health in post-menopausal women”,

Dr Newman said.