Dance your heart back to health

June 26, 2008 by  

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Those rehab exercises can be a bore sometimes. Treadmill, cycles, weights, sit-ups…I’m sure many cardiac patients on rehab get sick of these exercises and are simply tempted to stop. Well, this Mexican doctor may just have found a better alternative…What about dancing?

Dr Paula Quiroga of the National Institute of Cardiology Ignacio Chavez of Mexico City went for dancing steps instead of the usual rehab routine and got better results.

In a two-year observational study, a formal rehab regimen that substituted dance routines based on familiar ballroom and night-club dances for more conventional exercises allowed participants to safely achieve comparable exercise levels and muscle-training effects and left them wanting to come back for more.

reports Heartwire.

Dr Quiroga’s patients consisted of 560 people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s with ischemic or valvular heart disease, chronic heart failure, or congenital heart disease. The patients were taught special dance steps corresponding to different levels of exertion. Dance routines to the blues served as warm-ups. For low intensity exercise, dance steps to rock and roll music were performed. For intermediate intensity exercises, steps following the Cuban danzón rhythms worked well, while vigorous salsa steps served best for the highest levels of exertion. The patients were fitted with monitors which transmitted the readings of blood pressure and heart rates to a physical therapist at a central control station.

Over two years, the participants developed no serious arrhythmias, angina, or other important complications while dancing, and some showed only occasional runs of ventricular ectopia. Overall, the group experienced few complications, even with 70% of them considered at high clinical risk,

reports Dr Quiroga.

 She’s not the only one who swears to this rather unconventional but effective rehab programs. Other Latin American doctors report more compliance from their patients when using dance routines rather than normal rehab programs. Of course Latin Americans are known for their love of dancing so I think the programs’s success is a cultural thing. The dancing rehab program hasn’t been tested in another cultural setting.

If you were to choose, which type of rehab would you go for? I am not fond of dancing myself so think I’d go for the more conventional type of rehab program. I would feel more at home in a treadmill than on a dance floor.

I think it doesn’t matter which rehab program you go for, it isometric exercises, dancing or aerobics. The key is that it should be something which is fun and enjoyable so that the patients will come back for more.


Quiroga PV, Ruis-Suarez MD, Ilarraza-Lomell H, et al. Dance-hall dancing in patients with cardiovascular disease: Experience of 2 years. Presented at the World Congress of Cardiology 2008; May 20, 2008; Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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4 Responses to “Dance your heart back to health”
  1. Thanks for the link, Taylor and great that you dropped by.

  2. Taylor Morris says:

    I love stories like this! I work for the American Heart Association, and this reminded me of a story that I believe came out of our Scientific Sessions a couple of years ago about heart failure patients waltzing to a healthier heart. I’ll provide a link here in case you’re interested. Dancing is such a fun alternative to any form of exercise–most of which is monotonous and boring!

    Thanks, Raquel!

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