Waltz Your Way to Better Heart Health
Study Shows Benefits of Dancing for People With Heart Failure
Nov. 13, 2006 (Chicago) -- For someone with mild to moderate heart failure,
dancing lessons may be the perfect gift this holiday season.
In a new study, people with heart failure who took up waltzing breathed
better, exercised longer, and generally felt better.
Dancing boosted heart health just as much as exercise, says researcher
Romualdo Belardinelli, MD, a professor of cardiology at Università Politecnica
delle Marche School of Medicine and director of cardiac rehabilitation and
prevention at Lancisi Heart Institute in Ancona, Italy.
Dancing really had the edge in helping people's sense of well-being, he
The study was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific
Exercise and Live Longer
Belardinelli says studies have shown that people with heart failure who get
regular exercise live longer and have a better quality of life than their
"But long-term adherence to exercise programs is not very high, with as
many as 70% of patients dropping out over time," he says. "We have to
find new ways to reach them."
Belardinelli says the researchers chose the waltz because of its universal
appeal. But other slow dances should work as well, he says.
The study included 89 men and 21 women with mild to moderate heart
Heart failure happens when the heart's pumping action weakens. This causes
fluid to build up in your lungs and other body tissues. People with mild to
moderate heart failure can walk around, and even go up and down stairs, yet
they run out of breath much sooner and can't exercise as long as healthy
Forty-four men and women participated in a supervised exercise program
consisting of cycling and walking on a treadmill three times a week for eight
weeks. Another 44 people danced, alternating between slow five-minute waltzes
and fast three-minute waltzes for 21 minutes, three times a week for eight
weeks. The rest of the participants did not exercise.
Dancers Utilize Oxygen More Efficiently
The researchers showed that both exercise and waltzing boosted heart health
and improved breathing.
"A well-trained athlete utilizes oxygen very efficiently, so his muscles
don't demand as much oxygen-containing blood per minute. This is what allows
him or her to exercise harder and further than the average person," says
Elliott M. Antman, MD, a heart specialist at Harvard Medical School who was not
involved with the study.
"Similarly, dancing and exercise both helped heart failure patients to
utilize their oxygen more efficiently, thereby allowing them to exercise more
without running out of breath," says Antman, who is also an AHA
Specifically, an 18% improvement in oxygen use was seen among the dancers
and a 16% improvement was seen in the exercise group. These measurements were
unchanged in the group that did not exercise.
Quality of life, as measured by the survey, improved more among the
"Dancing appears to be an attractive and fun way for heart failure
patients to get their exercise," says Antman. "I highly recommend
American Heart Association former President Robert O. Bonow, MD, chief of
cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago,
says part of dancing's benefits may come from the fact that people are
interacting socially as opposed to walking on a treadmill by themselves.