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In healthy older adults, dance-based mind–motor activities (e.g., folk or ballroom dancing or tai chi) reduce risk for falls and improve balance, mobility, and lower body strength

Mattle M, Chocano-Bedoya PO, Fischbacher M, et al. Association of Dance-Based Mind-Motor Activities With Falls and Physical Function Among Healthy Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3:e2017688.

Review question

In healthy older adults, do dance-based mind–motor activities reduce risk for falls?


Many older people have falls. These can lead to serious injuries, including broken bones. Exercise can help improve balance, gait, and muscle strength and reduce risk for falling. This review looked at whether dance-based mind–motor activities as a form of exercise can also reduce falls. These activities included structured movements with choreography or specific instructions, dynamic balance, and social interaction. The activities may have mental as well as physical benefits because you need mental attention to move with rhythm and to interact with others.

How the review was done

The researchers did a systematic review of studies available up to February 2018. They found 29 randomized controlled trials that included 4239 people who were healthy and able to walk. Most people were 65 years of age or older, and most were women.

The key features of the studies were:

  • most people lived in the community; some lived in independent-living facilities;
  • dance-based mind–motor activities were compared with other types of exercise (e.g., walking, seated stretches, general aerobic exercise), no exercise, or usual care;
  • dance-based mind–motor activities included different styles of dancing (e.g., folk dancing, ballroom dancing) in 13 studies and tai chi in 16 studies;
  • most activities took 35 minutes to 2 hours/session and were done 2 or 3 times/week; and
  • most people did the activities for 12 to 26 weeks.

What the researchers found

Compared with other types of exercise, no exercise, or usual care, dance-based mind–motor activities:

  • reduced risk for falling and rate of falls;
  • improved balance, mobility, and lower body strength by a moderate amount; and
  • did not improve upper body strength.


In healthy older adults, dance-based mind–motor activities reduce risk for falls and improve balance, mobility, and lower body strength.

Dance-based mind–motor activities vs. control (other exercises, no exercise, or usual care) in healthy older adults


Number of trials (and people)

Effect of dance-based mind–motor activities

Number of people who had a fall

8 trials (1579 people)

Reduced number of people who fell by 37%*

Number of falls

7 trials (2012 people)

Reduced number of falls by 31%*


15 trials (1476 people)

Improved balance scale scores by a moderate amount†


13 trials (1379 people)

Improved mobility scale scores by a moderate amount†

Lower body strength

13 trials (1613 people)

Improved lower body strength measures by a moderate amount†

Upper body strength

4 trials (414 people)

No difference in effect

*Based on risk ratio for number of people who had a fall and rate ratio for number of falls.

†Amount of improvement was moderate (standardized mean difference between groups ≥0.5 and <0.8 on different measurement scales).


Dynamic balance
Staying balanced while moving around or changing positions.
Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

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