Tango dancing may be beneficial to Parkinson's patients, offering an easy and fun way to fight this debilitating disease.

That's at least according to a new study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, which details how the Argentine tango could help patients at certain stages in the development of Parkinson's disease (PD).

During the study, researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and McGill University looked at changes in motor abilities of 40 Parkinson's patients following a 12-week tango course.

They wanted to see if a social and physical activity linked to music, such as tango, could have possible therapeutic value for PD patients who characteristically suffer from motor dysfunctions including tremor, rigidity, gait dysfunction. Also, they were curious if this type of dancing improved their non-motor symptoms, such as depression, fatigue and cognitive degeneration.

"There's accumulating evidence that habitual physical activity is associated with a lower risk of developing PD, which suggests a potential slowing of PD progression," lead researcher Dr. Silvia Rios Romenets said in a statement. "In the study, we found the tango was helpful in significantly improving balance and functional mobility, and seemed to encourage patients to appreciate their general course of therapy. We also found modest benefits in terms of patients' cognitive functions and in reducing fatigue. No significant changes were detected in overall motor functions."

The Argentine tango may be particularly helpful for improving balance and functional mobility in patients with PD. That's because tango requires specific steps that involve rhythmically walking forward and backward, which may be particularly helpful for walking difficulties - especially for freezing of gait and to prevent backward falls.

In addition, tango requires working memory, control of attention, and multitasking to incorporate newly learned and previously learned dance elements, to stay in rhythm with the music, and maneuver around others on the dance floor. All of these elements may be beneficial for those suffering from PD.

Over half of PD patients fail to get their recommended daily dose of physical activity, and many find traditional exercise programs unappealing. This way, the tango is a more fun way of getting daily exercise, and as a plus, it may boost dopamine levels - a hormone related to PD.

So, combining music with exercise in dance such as the tango can increase accessibility, enjoyability, and motivation, as well as improve mood and stimulate cognition. Also, the social interaction and social support involved in tango have positive results on mood and compliance.

According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, as many as one million Americans live with PD, and roughly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD each year. And if something as simple as the tango can possibly benefit these patients, then what's there left to say except get up and dance!

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