Dancing in Time 2016

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Dancing in Time Exploring the health and wellbeing benefits of dance for older adults June 2016

all photography © Sara Teresa

“I use a walking frame and I’m trying to keep my legs and body active, so that’s why I come… it was different to, you know, get out and do exercise in this way.” “The emphasis doesn’t seem to be as much on the dance… as your body, the things you can do with your body, the stretching and you know the coordination and balance, which is exactly what I needed. I feel better about; you know bending or moving about when shopping…”

Being an active older adult is very important. Reducing the time spent sitting, and increasing the amount of time being active can extend the number of years a person can live independently, reduce disability, offer benefits to many bodily systems e.g. functioning of the heart and brain, and improve overall quality of life. Over the past few years, dance has been shown to be an enjoyable recreational activity used to improve the health and well being of older adults through being physically active. Research has shown dance improves balance, agility and muscle strength, and it is suggested it could also improve mood and reduce the risk of depression in older adults. This is also important as all of these are considered important modifiable factors for reducing falls, a common cause of serious injuries in community-dwelling older adults. In January 2015, Leeds Public Health commissioned Yorkshire Dance and the University of Leeds to investigate the feasibility and acceptability of implementing a dance programme to improve the

health and wellbeing of community-dwelling older adults in Leeds, with a specific focus on modifying factors which we know can contribute to falls. The dance programme comprised 10 weeks of contemporary dance, delivered twice a week for 90 minutes at a time. The dance sessions were led by specially trained choreographers from Yorkshire Dance. Contemporary dance is a lowimpact physical activity that is therefore open to all regardless of their physical condition. Contemporary dance offers the opportunity to improvise or interpret the music at a more person-centred level, either individually or as part of a larger group through movement, which includes elements of aerobic exercise, balance activities, lowlevel resistance exercise, and moves to enhance flexibility. Participants for the dance programme were recruited from 3 neighbourhood networks in the City of Leeds. Researchers from the School of Biomedical Sciences (Sport and Exercise Sciences) based at the University of Leeds used a variety of questionnaires

and motor activities to examine the impact the dance programme had on physical activity patterns, balance, fear of falling and mood. All participants were invited to take part in a group discussion in which they were asked about their experiences of the dance programme, how they felt it had affected them and their bodies, and what they thought might prevent or encourage others to take part in dance in the future.

“You do it because you do it in groups… you’re letting the other people down aren’t you if you are not here? It’s nicer us as a group, I just sit on my own otherwise…” “I think the thing is we’ve actually used our brain to put the exercise that we’ve done into a little routine… a little dance… so it’s made it so we’ve used our brain as well, as well as us body… when I go home I like to practise, in my head, to get my brain working…”

A total of 38 people (aged 60-85 years of age) completed the dance programme, and all but one was female. On average they attended over 70% of offered sessions. Of these 38, 22 agreed to take part in the research element of the dance programme, and these people attended on average 85% of all the 22 sessions offered. The data from the questionnaires and motor tasks showed that taking part in the dance programme decreased the amount of time spent sitting in the week, and also increased the amount of time participants were engaging in either moderate or hard physical activity. Participants also performed better on activities which were designed to test their mobility and balance; and were

more confident in their ability to undertake tasks without feeling like they might fall. In addition, people who had taken part in the programme felt happier at the end of the 10 weeks than they did at the beginning. The information from the group discussions showed that people viewed the dance positively and thought dance was a new way of being active. In addition, the group nature of the dance encouraged participants to attend and participants felt it was more enjoyable than exercising on their own. Several people noted health benefits that they attributed to the dance including reduction in pain, easing of stiffness in joints, increased energy levels, and better balance and coordination. Other participants commented on how they felt they had used their brain, and had felt more relaxed and happy because of attendance at the dance sessions. Overall, cost and location were important factors to consider when running future dance sessions, with people citing local buildings in their community as preferred venues, and low participation costs. Furthermore, it was considered important to slowly increase the

amount of time given over to creative elements of the programme, but this was an important and unique element to the programme overall. This piece of research has shown that a contemporary dance programme is acceptable and feasible to implement in the community. A dance programme such as the one run by Yorkshire Dance could potentially offer a way to improve the health and well being of those that participate, in addition to modifying some of the known risk factors for falling in communitydwelling adults.

“You sometimes think should I be feeling as happy as this – you know, having fun, exercising isn’t supposed to be having fun is it… you feel better coming here… Yeah, and I think if you’re feeling a bit shy it helps bring you out… I mean I’m doing things now in this that 10 years ago I would never, ever had done.”

Finally, we can anecdotally report that this type of programme has the potential to continue running more long term. Two groups of participants continue to meet and dance as a group, some 6-12 months after their original programme ended.

To see a documentary film of the sessions at Site One, search YouTube for Yorkshire Dance | Dancing in Time 2015

Leeds Public Health

University of Leeds

Older People’s Team

Sport & Exercise Sciences

The Older People Public Health team within the Office of the Director of Public Health Leeds is located within Adult Social Care. Here the overall focus is to deliver better lives for the most vulnerable older people. Supporting older people to live healthier lives enables a focus on healthy ageing through the delivery of programmes of work under the Ageing Well Board, which includes physical activity and malnutrition of which the Older People Matters Food group has received national recognition for their work.

Researchers from Sport & Exercise Sciences are embedded in the Cardiovascular and Sport Sciences research group of the School of Biomedical Sciences, and their research was ranked 1st for ‘World Leading’ 4* research in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

Additionally working under the Ageing Well Board we have developed a range of programs to offer older people broader opportunities to live independent lives with a focus on falls, preventable sight loss, and living with frailty. The Older People’s Team collaboratively work with key partners ranging from health and social care to the voluntary sector to improve the wider determinants of health in relation to older people with a focus on social isolation and poverty. Finally, the Older People Team along with key partners are championing a significant piece of work to become the Best City to Grow Old In through the Age Friendly Cities initiative. The knowledge and resources created on our journey to become the Best City to Grow Old In will be promoted and shared to improve the public health of all. www.leeds.gov.uk

Research is funded via RCUK, charitable and industry sources and interests are broad ranging, from investigating the role of exercise in health and wellbeing across a range of groups (e.g. cancer patients, obese individuals, community dwelling older adults), to answering physiological questions about cardiovascular and nervous systems, and how they respond to exercise. A number of staff collaborate with researchers from Leeds NHS Teaching Hospitals giving direct access to clinical colleagues, and they collaborate with researchers in Faculties from across the University. www.fbs.leeds.ac.uk/ research/cses.php Research inquires to Dr Sarah Astill, s.l.astill@leeds.ac.uk


Yorkshire Dance Yorkshire Dance champions the value of dance and its development in Yorkshire. It does so by raising standards, increasing knowledge and understanding and fostering creativity and innovation. It creates opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to see, make and take part in high quality dance that is rooted in their creativity, in their lives and in their communities, with the power to transform and inspire.

It creates opportunities for emerging and established artists and practitioners to research, create and present new contemporary work on the small scale, and in communities, developing their skills, expertise and networks. It creates opportunities for people to experience dance by working with partners in local authorities and the arts, in health and in sport, building a regionwide infrastructure for dance development.

www.yorkshiredance.com @YorkshireDance www.facebook.com/yorkshiredance www.youtube.com/user/YorkshireDance instagram.com/yorkshiredancepictures

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