Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work

Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Lisa L. Dutton


Background and Purpose

Falls are common in older adults and linked to decreased balance and increased morbidity. Regular exercise can improve balance and decrease falls risk. Recent research suggests that participation in cultural-based activities, such as dance, may be associated with decreased falls risk and improved health. The purpose of this study was to examine effects of a dance-based exercise program called "The Dancing Heart Program" on balance and quality of life in community-dwelling older adults. This is an interactive program facilitated by professional instructors from Kairos Dance Theatre in the Twin Cities. It includes activities challenging balance while providing social engagement.


Ten subjects over age 60 were recruited from an assisted living facility and seven subjects completed the study. Demographic information was collected at the beginning of the study. Participants attended 60-minute sessions once a week for 13 sessions. Outcome measures included the Berg Balance Scale (BBS) and the 36-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36). Participants were assessed 1 month prior to the program, at program initiation, and 12 weeks into the program. Results Three people who agreed to participate but did not attend Dancing Heart sessions were classified as non-participants; the four that attended were classified as participants. All subjects demonstrated significant improvement on the BBS over time (p=.01). There were no between group differences for balance or interaction effects. Scores on the SF-36 physical component were significantly lower for participants compared to non-participants (p=.01). There were no significant changes over time or interaction effects for the SF-36 physical component. No significant differences were found for the SF-36 mental component across time or based on participation status. Conclusions Results of this study suggest that the Dancing Heart Program had no significant effect on balance or quality of life. Significant differences between groups on the SF-36 physical component suggest there may be important differences between those who choose to participate in programs such as Dancing Heart and those who do not. In addition, the intensity of the Dancing Heart Program may be too low to effect changes. Primary limitations of this study include small sample size and low power.