Reel benefits for your bones

Vigorous jigging might seem a bad idea as we get older. Age Scotland’s Doug Anthoney reports on surprising new findings that suggest Scottish Country Dancing could be just the thing for better bone health.

Around 11.30pm at a typical Scottish wedding reception and the dance floor can start to resemble a rugby scrum. As the Caller’s instructions are filtered through the fog of alcohol, feet flail, steps falter, and the risk of stumbling – ankles twisted – into a human cairn becomes frighteningly real. If you have ever experienced this, you might well think that Ceilidh dancing should come with a ‘best before’ date and be left to the young and fit.

However new research, led by Dr. Morag Thow of Glasgow Caledonian University, suggests that Scottish Country Dancing (similar to Ceilidh dancing, but more formal and competitive) is good for our bones. Using a force plate, the team measured the impact forces involved in the common pas-de-bas step. They found that 1.94 x body weight goes through the lower limbs when performing the step, which is within the range found to be beneficial for postmenopausal women for the prevention of osteoporosis. Why does this matter?  Because osteoporosis, a disorder in which bone strength is compromised and fracture risk is increased, affects one in every three postmenopausal women.

Physiotherapist Sabita Stewart, a member of the study team, says: ““We’re very excited about this. Anecdotally we knew Scottish Country Dancing was good for you; now we have the scientific evidence to prove it!

“Our findings mean that health professionals can have confidence in recommending dancing to older people as a beneficial activity. This time we’ve looked at bone health, but we’re also confident about dancing’s cardiovascular, cognitive and social benefits – perhaps these will be the focus of future research.”

If you pop into the World Congress on Active Ageing today you can hear directly from Dr Thow and colleagues about this study at 4.30pm (£8 Seniors’ and Carers’ day passes are available at the door).  Alternatively, email Sabita Stewart or Morag Thow for more information.

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