By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
We’ve known for a while that regular, moderate exercise (for people of all age groups) is part of a healthy lifestyle: among other things, it enhances cardiovascular function, circulation, digestion and elimination, musculoskeletal integrity, mental health and weight maintenance efforts. A 2010 study shows that staying physically active throughout one’s golden years offers even more benefits for elderly individuals: improved mobility and reduced risk of falls.
Through a one-year randomized, controlled trial, researchers examined the effects of Eurhythmics, a movement-to-music program, on individuals aged 65 and above. The study participants, who were all determined to be at increased risk of falling, were randomly assigned to either an intervention or delayed intervention group; the latter control group started the weekly movement program 6 months later than the intervention group. Seniors who moved to rhythms (ranging from Mozart pieces to jazz improvisation), during the first six-month stretch demonstrated better balance and functionality, fewer falls, lowered risk of falling and reduced stride length variability than the control group participants. The control group caught up and experienced similar health enhancements by the study’s end, though.
The movement-to music program, Eurhythmics, was developed about a hundred years ago by Swiss composer, Émile Jacques-Dalcroze, as a vehicle through which to better understand music and musicianship, rather than as a form of dance. Through modern Eurhythmics practice, the body is said to teach the mind about music’s fundamental concepts and expressive meanings, as well as the nuances of musical performance.
While the seniors in the study did not have their musical skills evaluated, their improved mobility shows that regular movement-to-music activity can play a role in healthy aging. Expressively moving to music sounds like fun, which is one of the keys to making regular exercise a part of your lifestyle. If movement-to-music’s your thing, keep up the walking, turning, grooving, and even dancing to maintain that spring in your step and quality of life – doctor’s orders.
- Rabin, Roni. “Unsteady on Your Feet? Try Moving to Music.” NYTimes.com, Nov. 26, 2010.
- Trombetti A, Hars M, et al. “Effect of Music-Based Multitask Training on Gait, Balance, and Fall Risk in Elderly People.” Arch Intern Med. Published online November 22, 2010. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2010.446.
- Dalcroze Society of America
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