Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Dancing away from heart failure

Heart Beat

Dancing away from heart failure

If you'd rather waltz than walk or rumba than run, why not let dancing do double duty as fun and exercise? For people with heart failure, and maybe for others, dancing may do as much for the heart "" and more for the soul "" than working out on a treadmill or stationary bicycle.

Italian researchers wondered whether an entertaining and social activity that gets the heart moving would do as much for people with heart failure as more traditional forms of exercise. They recruited 110 men and women with moderate heart failure for a two-month experiment. Forty-four of the volunteers followed a supervised program of treadmill walking and stationary cycling three times a week. Another 44 and their partners waltzed for more than 20 minutes three times a week. The remaining 22 didn't exercise at all.

At the end of eight weeks, dancers and exercisers alike had better cardiorespiratory fitness than the nonexercising control group. They were able to exercise longer and more easily, and their blood vessels became more flexible. To the investigators' surprise, the dancers' quality of life improved more than the exercisers' did, especially in emotional satisfaction.

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