Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths in older adults (Murphy 2000), and they can lead to fear of falling, reduced quality of life, withdrawal from activities, and injury. Changes in joint ranges of motion, strength, sensory processing, and sensorimotor integration all contribute to reduced balance stability with increasing age and these changes are paralleled in those with Parkinson Disease (PD). Interventions, such as traditional exercises tailored specifically for seniors and/or individuals with PD, have addressed balance and gait difficulties in an attempt to reduce fall rates with mixed, undocumented results. Argentine tango dancing has recently emerged as a promising non-traditional approach to ameliorating balance and gait problems among elderly individuals. The goal of this study was to determine whether the functional mobility benefits noted in elders following a tango dancing program might also extend to older individuals with PD. We compared the effects of tango to those of traditional exercise on functional mobility in individuals with and without PD. We predicted that the functional mobility and quality of life gains noted with Argentine tango would be greater than those noted with traditional strength/flexibility exercise. Thirty-eight subjects (19 control and 19 with PD) were assigned to 20 hour-long exercise or tango classes that were completed within 13 weeks. Although all groups showed gains in certain measures, only the Parkinson Tango group improved on all measures of balance, falls and gait. Moreover, upon terminating the program the Parkinson Tango group was more confident about balance than the Parkinson Exercise group. In psychosocial terms, both groups largely enjoyed their experiences because the classes fostered community involvement and became a source of social support for the members. Our results suggest that Argentine tango is an appropriate, enjoyable, and beneficial activity for the healthy elderly and those with PD and that tango may convey benefits not obtained with a more traditional exercise program.
- Parkinson disease