Osteoporosis and Ballroom Dancing: A Perfect Match

by CMarie

Ballroom dancing may be the perfect activity for those who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Even those who already have experienced vertebral fractures can participate.

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bone density is so low that fractures can occur from even minor strains or falls. Low impact, weight bearing exercise can help increase bone density without risk of fracture. Like walking, ballroom dancing is a low-impact, weight bearing activity that is good for persons with osteoporosis. In addition, ballroom dancing improves posture, balance and coordination, all of which help prevent debilitating falls and spinal deformity.

What is Osteoporosis?

Bones are living tissue that provide calcium for the body and then replenish their own supply of bone tissue.  As we age, replacement of bone tissue slows dramatically, especially in pre- and post-menopausal women.  Osteoporosis is diagnosed when the loss of bone density renders the bones soft and susceptible to fracture, even with only moderate impact.

Spontaneous fractures of the vertebrae caused by bending or twisting can result in loss of height and the stooped posture characteristic of many elderly persons.  Fractures due to falls can result in hospitalization and often permanent loss of independence in the elderly population.   In the U.S., 10 million people have osteoporosis and 34 million more have low bone mass and therefore are at a high risk for this disease.Soft, or Cancellous Bone Tissue

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Importance of Treatment for Osteoporosis

When you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, it is critical to stop or slow the process of bone loss.  A three-fold approach to accomplishing this has the most successful results. 

  1. Medications called biophosphates can actually rebuild some of the bone lost, but must be administered under the close supervision of a physician.
  2. When the diet is rich in calcium bone loss is reduced.  However, sufficient vitamin D, as recommend by your doctor, is essential for calcium to be absorbed.
  3. Exercise is the third treatment modality recommended for osteoporosis.
  • Weight bearing exercise forces muscles and bones to counteract gravity with strength.  The response of the bone is to become stronger and denser.
  • Increased muscle strength supports the skeleton and prevents injury to the bones.  However, due to the risk of fracture, high impact exercises such as running and jumping should be avoided.



Ballroom Dancing for Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis

Dancing to Build Bone DensityIn the February 2005 issue of the AARP Newsletter, the article “Let's Dance to Health, Getting Motivated,” states that 

"Whether it's ballet or ballroom, clogging or jazz, dance is great for helping people of all ages and physical abilities get and stay in shape.”  According to the article, these are some of the benefits of low impact ballroom dancing: 

  • "strengthen bones and muscles without hurting your joints
  • tone your entire body
  • improve your posture and balance, which can prevent falls
  • increase your stamina and flexibility
  • reduce stress and tension
  • build confidence
  • provide opportunities to meet people, and
  • ward off illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, and depression.”
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Why Ballroom Dancing is Perfect for Osteoporosis

Dance requires the movement of large muscle groups over extended periods of time.  During this time the muscles and bones resist gravity by growing stronger. Dance requires the simultaneous movement of the neck, hands, arms, hips and spine, as well as the legs and feet.  In this sense it is the perfect “whole body exercise.”

Using all of these muscles and bones at once improves balance, grace of movement and coordination.  All of these attributes prevent falls – the most common source of fractures for the person with osteoporosis.

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Ballroom dance is low impact.  It is a gentle, flowing, non-jarring type of dance that does not require stomping, jumping or other high-impact movements.  Ballroom dance is a safe activity for persons who have healed from a previous vertebral fracture caused by osteoporosis.

Posture and Ballroom Dancing

The foxtrot, waltz and tango, when danced correctly, require deliberate, precise movements and correct posture.  Training in these dances strengthens the muscles that support the spine. 

POOR POSTUREPoor posture, such as slouching, greatly increases the risk of a permanent and unsightly stoop in the individual with osteoporosis.  Moreover, spinal fractures suffered by persons with this condition are often caused by sudden bending, twisting and awkward movements. 

The strict control and deliberate movements of ballroom dancing can train people with osteoporosis to move with greater deliberation and care.  This protects their bodies from fracture while improving their posture to prevent permanent disfigurement.

Good Posture

Preventive training exercises that improve posture and balance are strongly recommended in a 2010 National Institutes of Health study of vertebral fractures due to osteoporosis.



Shall We Dance?


Ballroom dancing is a healthy activity for seniors and all age groups.  For middle-aged persons and seniors with osteoporosis, ballroom dancing may be the perfect choice - for muscles, bones, balance, posture and coordination.  When you add fun and the lure of romance, it's a great hobby to pursue before and during retirement!

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

Updated: 05/13/2013, CMarie
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