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From self-esteem to cholesterol, dancing can help combat unpleasant side effects of ageing

A new study has found that dancing improves health and self-esteem in menopausal women. Photo: Getty

We’re all getting older, but the Bee Gees were spot on when they suggested: “You should be dancing.”

In fact, science is on their side.

A new study from Brazil (home of the saucy Samba) found that dancing may “effectively lower cholesterol levels, improve fitness and body composition and in the process, improve self-esteem” – issues that are directly related to menopause.

Published in the Journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), the study explains that women after menopause are more likely to experience weight gain, with particular increases of central body fat.

They also undergo metabolic disturbances, such as increases in triglycerides and ‘bad’ cholesterol, and overall are faced with an increase in cardiovascular catastrophe such as stroke or heart attack.

Throw in night sweats, some foggy thinking, a drop in libido, reduced physical activity, a heightened risk of falls and fractures and a compromised self-image, and life’s not feeling too great.

The benefits of dancing for ageing people

The potential of dancing, as a means of getting physically and mentally fit, and as a boost for social skills, has been extensively explored in research.

There are studies from the 1980s that found dance was great therapy for anxiety.

A 2017 study found that dancing, which supports balance and co-ordination, help stall the degradation of white brain tissue, the connective tissue that breaks down as we age.

Dancing in all directions can help keep muscles supple.

Because the body is moving from side to side, front and back, and turning this way and that, muscles become stronger and suppler.

All of this serves ageing people well.

The new NAMS study, according to the authors, is one of the very few to have investigated the effects of dance on body image, self-esteem, and physical fitness in postmenopausal women.

How the study worked

The researchers recruited 36 postmenopausal participants (mean age 57 years) and had them dance three times per week, for 90 minutes each session.

The women were evaluated before and after 16 weeks. Body composition (body fat and lean mass), blood lipids (fats), functional fitness, self-image, and self-esteem were assessed.

The 16-week dance intervention was found effective in improving not only the fat profile and functional fitness of the participants but also self-image and self-esteem.

The participants also enjoyed improvement in balance, postural control, gait (the manner in which they walked), strength and overall physical performance.

“In addition to these benefits, (the) women also probably enjoyed a sense of camaraderie from the shared experience of learning something new,” NAMS medical director Stephanie Faubion said.