Dancing Tango into a Looser Body and a Healthier Brain?

October 18, 2016

For one million Americans[1] living with Parkinson’s’ Disease (PD), social life isn’t necessarily part of a routine plan. After all, this disease takes a toll, not only on the individuals who suffer from it, but also on their families and friends. PD is a neurodegenerative disease with increasing motor disabilities – where dealing with tremors, imbalance, and stiffness, seem to make (social) life less appealing. Social life, however, seems to earn its appeal for those suffering for PD through Argentine Tango, according to recent studies.

Tango may be more of an exotic and fun idea for most. But there is more to the beauty of tango than meets the eye. A study by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital -The Neuro, McGill University and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre looked at whether a social and physical activity linked to music, could have possible therapeutic value for PD patients who characteristically suffer from motor dysfunctions. Dr. Silvia Rios Romenets, lead researcher in the study found that[2] tango, in particular, “was helpful in significantly improving balance and functional mobility, and seemed to encourage patients to appreciate their general course of therapy.”

Gammon M. Earhart, P.T., Ph.D.[3], from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, was studying differences in movement patterns between people with Parkinson's Disease (PD) and healthy people when she learned of this study. After securing a grant, she conducted her own research for a year. Throughout that year, Dr. Earhart and her researchers found that those individuals suffering with PD who had learned tango increased their participation in activity areas such as shopping and household tasks, and even in leisure pursuits such as gardening and eating out. It was observed that in some cases, these individuals had picked back up on activities they had dropped once they were diagnosed with PD. Conversely, individuals in the group not taking tango classes did not benefit from such changes.

Physical exercise was already prescribed as therapy together with drug medication for PD patients. However, those suffering from PD seemed to find regular exercises boring. Now, these same patients can find a more fun-filled and challenging exercise, combined with music and rhythm. According to the study, not only does the body becomes more fluid, but dancing Argentine tango is also a great brain exercise since the individuals have to remember the dance steps.

The research is still controversial[4] and its findings not yet conclusive. However, Che Guevara and soccer aside, Argentina has gifted the world with a beautiful art form that seems to be benefiting the minds and bodies of many PD patients.



[1] Statistics on Parkinson's [Advertisement]. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2016, from http://www.pdf.org/en/parkinson_statistics

[2] Kar, A. (2016, April 13). Tango dancing could benefit Parkinson's disease patients. Retrieved October 11, 2016, from https://www.mcgill.ca/neuro/channels/news/tango-dancing-could-benefit-pa...

[3] Parkinson's Disease Foundation, Press Room. (2013, Winter). Spotlight on Research: Teaching Tango for Parkinson's [Press release]. Retrieved Fall, 2016, from http://www.pdf.org/winter13_spotlight

[4] Quinn, N. P. (2014). Argentine Tango for Parkinson's Disease: Much Better Than a Zimmer! Movement Disorders Clinical Practice, 1(4), 389-390. doi:10.1002/mdc3.12068

About Author(s)

Marisa is a third-year law student at the University of Pittsburgh. She is pursuing certificates in Health Law and in Latin American Studies. She is interested in gender and race issues and how they affect immigration and immigrant communities. She also does research in public health issues. She has been contributing with articles for Panoramas since 2015.