PURPOSE: Ballroom dance is a physical activity in which participants rhythmically move to music with a partner. It may be an effective exercise mode for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) who have mild to moderate balance impairments, in part because a dance partner can provide external support. The purpose of this pilot feasibility study was to investigate efficacy of and describe exercise intensity during a 6-8 week program of ballroom dance.
METHODS: Participants (n=6) had confirmed MS, were ambulatory with minimal aid, and able to physically participate in the program. Participants were paired with a non-MS partner. Pre and post dance intervention measures included quality of life (PROMIS Global Well-Being), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), clinical measures (Berg Balance Scale, Timed Up and Go, Dynamic Gait Index), and the MS Functional Composite (25’ Walk, Paced Serial Addition Test (PASAT), 9-Hole Peg Test). The ballroom dance intervention comprised 6-8 weeks of one hr lessons, twice a week taught by a professional instructor. Heart rate (HR) and RPE (Borg, 6-20) were monitored during sessions. Analyses were by paired t-tests and Wilcoxon signed rank tests. Values are mean (SD).
RESULTS: Improvements were noted for the PROMIS total score (Pre = 37 (7), Post = 41 (6), p = .027), PROMIS Global Mental Health component (Pre = 15 (2), Post = 17 (2), p = .041) and PASAT (Pre = 47 (9), Post = 54 (6), p = .046). There was a trend toward improvement in Berg Balance Scale (Pre = 51 (7), Post = 53 (5), p = .066). HRs were measured for each dance type and expressed as a percentage of predicted maximal HRs: Push-pull (59%), Waltz (61%), Foxtrot (59%), and Rumba (57%). Heart rates were consistent with RPE (10 - 11).
CONCLUSIONS: Ballroom dance can be a fun social form of physical activity for people with MS that can result in better perceived quality of life and may improve balance and cognition. The small initial sample size precluded definitive conclusions.