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Study finds dance health project reduces falls in the elderly by up to 58 per cent

A social prescribing programme designed to encourage older people to dance could help reduce falls by around 58 per cent, a new study has found.

Community-led project Dance to Health combines evidence-based falls prevention principles with the creativity, expression and energy of dance.

Each year, a third of people over 65 will have a fall, which can cause serious injury, loss of confidence and social isolation. The cost to the NHS and social care is estimated at £2.3 billion per year.

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Current NICE guidelines state that older adults at risk of falls should incorporate physical activity to improve balance and coordination on at least twice a week.

The results of the research centre’s study found that the Dance to Health programme can reduce falls by 58 per cent and significantly reduce admissions to hospital.

The study, carried out by Sheffield Hallam University Sport Industry Research Centre, found that dance can deliver an effective solution to the health challenge of older people’s falls while saving the NHS money – and unlike many initiatives to improve balance, those partaking in Dance to Health programmes enjoyed it and were more likely to keep doing it.

Created by Aesop, a charity and social enterprise focused on developing artistic solutions to major social problems, Dance to Health offers high-quality evidenced falls-prevention exercise, led by 35
professional dancers qualified as Postural Stability Instructors (PSI).

Tim Joss, Chief Executive of Aesop, said it shows how the arts can deliver effective solutions to major health problems.

Joss said: “Research 1 has shown that the general statement ‘dance reduces falls’ is not true. There is something special about Dance to Health. It has artistic ‘active ingredients’.

“For example, all our dance artists qualify as falls prevention exercise instructors. Socialising and celebration are integral to the participants’ experience. And there’s lots of scope for participants’ creativity.”

College of Medicine Chair, Dr Michael Dixon, Co-Chair of the Social Prescribing Network, said Dance to Health, with its explicit health focus, is an example of ‘super social-prescribing’.

The social prescribing expert said: “Following this positive evaluation by Sheffield we have taken Dance to Health online, are planning to work with communities across the country to develop more Dance to Health Local Groups and run a randomised controlled trial to build the evidence further.”

For more information on online sessions and to find a Dance to Health class near you, visit: dancetohealth.org/dance_sessions/Find_a_Session

Sheffield Hallam University Sport Industry Research Centre