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Ballroom dancing may improve function in multiple sclerosis patients

ballroom dancing may improve function in MS patients

A small study conducted by researchers at Marquette University in Milwaukee found that ballroom dancing may help improve function in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).


During the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers annual meeting in Indianapolis, Alexander Ng, PhD, and his colleagues reported that MS patients who participated in a ballroom dance program had improvements over baseline on several functional measures. The program included foxtrot, salsa, swing and waltz, among other types of ballroom dance.

Twelve patients were enrolled in an 8-to-10 week ballroom dance program that met twice a week for an hour. Ng and his colleagues assessed parameters such as Fatigue Impact Scale (FIS), 6-Minute Walk (6MW), Timed Up and Go (TUG) and Dynamic Gait Index (DGI), as well as heart rate variability using a 10-minute rest EKG.

The Fatigue Impact Scale, which consists of 40 items, assess the symptom of fatigue as part of an underlying chronic disease or condition and evaluates the effect of fatigue on cognitive functioning, physical functioning, and psychosocial functioning.

The 6-Minute Walk was originally designed to test exercise tolerance in chronic respiratory disease and heart failure, but has since been used as a performance-based measure of functional exercise capacity among other populations.

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The Timed Up and Go test assess a person’s mobility, and the Dynamic Gait Index assesses gait, balance and fall risk.

The researchers found improvements in several functions after the ballroom dancing lessons.

• 6MW (456 m versus 492 m, P=0.002)
• TUG (10.4 s versus 8.9 s, P=0.003)
• DGI (19 versus 21, P=0.04)

Ng told MedPageToday that ballroom or social dance appeared to be fun and well tolerated and that “it can be an important component of an active or at least nonsedentary lifestyle for persons with MS.”

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine found that ballroom dancing could help improve motor function in patients with Parkinson’s disease, but the effects had not been well studied for patients with multiple sclerosis.

The results of the new study are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.