Greek dancing
Heart Health

Greek Dancing Improves Jumping Ability of Elderly Heart Failure Patients

As a thirdAGE visitor, you probably remember the sirtaki danced in the 1974 movie “Zorba, the Greek”. Now a study done at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece has shown Greek dancing improves the jumping ability of elderly patients with heart failure. The research was published April 15th in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. Patients randomized to Greek dancing jumped higher and faster than their sedentary counterparts. Those who danced had stronger legs and could walk further.

A release from the publisher quotes Zacharias Vordos, an exercise physiologist at Aristotle University, as saying, “Greek dancing is an important part of weddings and other celebrations, and is popular among older people. We believed dancing would increase the attractiveness of rehabilitation programs for patients with chronic heart failure. This was the first study to assess the impact of traditional Greek dancing on jumping ability.”

The release notes that the study included 40 Greek patients with chronic heart failure who were randomly assigned to a three month rehabilitation program based on traditional Greek dancing or to their usual sedentary lifestyle. Exercise training took place at three municipal gyms and consisted of three 40 to 65 minute weekly sessions. Patients were 73 years old on average and none had done any exercise in the past year.

At the beginning and end of the study, the researchers tested patients’ jumping ability using a Myotest-Pro dynamometer. Jumping ability included jump height, amount of time the feet were in contact with the ground, and strength and speed during the jumps. In case patients were hard of hearing, both an audible alarm and visible signal from the researcher were used to tell patients when to start each jump.

Strength of the leg muscles was assessed with a leg-chest dynamometer. Endurance of the leg muscles was evaluated using the six-minute walking test.

There were no differences between groups in any of the measurements at the start of the study. After three months, patients who participated in Greek dancing jumped higher and faster than the sedentary patients. They also had stronger legs and could walk further, demonstrating more endurance.

When the researchers compared the performance of the dancing group at the start and end of the study, they found that their endurance and leg strength had improved by 10%, and they jumped 10% higher and around 6% faster. The sedentary group showed no change between the initial and final measurements.

“Our study shows that traditional Greek dancing improves strength, endurance and jumping ability in elderly patients with heart failure,” said Mr. Vordos. “Patients who participated in Greek dancing jumped higher at the end of the training program, probably because they had stronger leg muscles.”