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Research Study finds Dance has positive benefits for people with Parkinson’s

Imagine having only scattergun control over your body’s movements and living with the constant uncertainty that at any moment your leg might freeze or your hand might begin to shake uncontrollably?

This is the reality for many afflicted with Parkinson’s disease (Parkinson’s). Across the globe, more than seven million people live with the condition – 100,000 Australians have it. There is no known cause. There is no cure.

Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disorder affecting a person’s ability to control their body’s movements. It is triggered from a deficiency in dopamine – a neurotransmitter necessary for regulating smooth motor skills. Symptoms may develop slowly, but inevitably intensify over time. They vary between individuals and are helped by drug treatment.

Now, in exciting research findings, Parkinson’s Queensland, in conjunction with Queensland Ballet and research undertaken by QUT and The University of Queensland (UQ) demonstrate that Queensland Ballet’s Dance for Parkinson’s program had positive physical, social, cognitive and emotional benefits for participants affected by Parkinson’s.

The research used a mixed-methods approach and collected qualitative and quantitative data from the program using interviews, common clinical assessment tools of walking, balance, hand function, quality of life, and laboratory assessment of postural sway and gait.

“The quantitative results of our research were very encouraging,” said Professor Graham Kerr, a neuroscientist with QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and the President of Parkinson’s Queensland.

“Overall, the participants saw an improvement in their functional mobility while dual tasking, which is moving their arms and feet simultaneously. We also saw improvements in gait cadence and velocity while walking in a straight line and while dual tasking. Participants’ physical discomfort decreased, they were more confident with balancing activities and their ability to communicate improved.”

Head of QUT Dance Associate Professor Gene Moyle, who is also a sport and exercise psychologist and Queensland Ballet Board Director, said qualitative results from the research demonstrated valuable emotional and social benefits. “We observed that participation in these classes and the ‘outside the studio’ experiences helped restore participants’ dignity and confidence – they reported feeling happier, more optimistic and motivated as a result.”

UQ Professor Sandy Brauer said, “A main finding was the improvement in the ability of participants to walk and perform another function at the same time, which is often difficult for people with Parkinson’s. Falls are a major threat to the 80,000 Australians with Parkinson’s, leading to injuries, dependency and institutionalisation, so it’s a promising step to improve walking which could reduce the risk of falls.”

Another significant benefit of the classes revealed by the research is that they acted as a gateway activity to further physical, social and arts activities.

Parkinson’s Queensland CEO, Helen Crew comments, “We are proud to have collaborated with Queensland Ballet which has yielded this fantastic result of improving the quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s through the beneficial physical, social, emotional and creative effects of the Dance for Parkinson’s program. Parkinson’s Queensland is delighted to see this important program continue for the benefit of people living with Parkinson’s.”

Sharelink:  www.parkinsons-qld.org.au/danceforpd

Media: Helen Crew – Parkinson’s Queensland Chief Executive Officer
T  61 7 3209 1588 | E ceo@parkinsonsqld.org.au

Info about the Dance for Parkinson’s classes: www.queenslandballet.com.au/learn/fitness-and-wellbeing/dance-for-parkinsons

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