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These Seniors Can Probably Out-Dance You; They Might Be Healthier, Too

A Chicago researcher and a dance instructor teamed up to help Latin seniors get healthy and physically active without treadmills or weights.

By Jamal Andress | March 16, 2016

A dance program helped older Latinos walk faster and improved their physical fitness.

"For me, the goal was to get them dancing and to get them moving. And for Dr. Marquez, it was to gather the data to see what kind of effect this had on the seniors," dance instructor Miguel Mendez said.

Fifty-four seniors participated in the four-month program. The average age was 65 years old, and the classes were held twice a week.

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"A lot of people have a negative reaction to exercise, but with dance, it's something different," study co-author Dr. David Marquez said.

Dancers completed a 400-meter walk in just under 392 seconds compared with almost 430 seconds at the start of the study.

"I've literally heard hips crack in class. And then they'll be like, 'Oh wow; I feel a little bit better now.'" Mendez said.

Marquez is now testing the mental benefits of the dance program.

"You also have the cognitive component to dancing. So, you have to be able to remember your steps. You have the social aspects. Research has shown that engaging in social activity is important for cognition. And then you have the aspect of music. Music in and of itself has been shown to improve people's mood. All of these components together ... could be a very good way to improve cognition," Marquez said.

Both Marquez and Mendez hope to expand the program.

"I would love to see it expand into other cities and be able to share what we do with seniors throughout the U.S. And what the hell. Let's just make it global" Mendez said.

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