STAY FIT: Waltz your way to a healthy heart

NEW YORK: Doing the waltz could improve heart functions and the quality of life among chronic heart failure patients, suggests a study.

Romualdo Belardinelli and researchers in Italy studied 110 individuals with chronic heart failure, 89 of them men, with an average age of 59.

The study participants were randomly assigned to do traditional aerobic exercise, including cycling and treadmills, three times a week for eight weeks, or to do a dance programme that alternated slow waltzes (five minutes) and fast waltzes (three minutes) for a total of 21 minutes. The dance sessions were also performed three times a week for eight weeks. A third group did not exercise and served as a control group, reported health portal Health Central.

Cardiopulmonary fitness increased at similar rates in the routine aerobic group and in the dance group, with dancers experiencing slightly greater benefits, said the researchers.

Among the aerobic exercisers, oxygen consumption increased 16 per cent, compared to 18 per cent for the dancers. Anaerobic threshold, or the point above which muscles start to tire, increased 20 per cent among exercisers and 21 per cent among dancers. And, cardiocirculatory fitness increased 18 per cent among the exercisers and 19 per cent among the dancers.

Quality of life improved more in the dancing group than in the exercise group. And dancing was safe; no one had to withdraw from the programme.

The benefits for people in the dancing group appear at least as great, and sometimes greater, than the benefits gained from more traditional aerobic exercise, they said.