Dancing and Parkinson's

Dancing and Parkinson’s Disease during the pandemic

According to new research, dancing at home is accessible and usable for people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD).

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is one of the most prevalent and fastest-growing neurological conditions and is characterized by multiple motor and sensorimotor symptoms including rigidity, tremor, and disturbances in gait and balance, as well as slower and reduced amplitude movements. The coronavirus disease COVID-19 has been associated with a deterioration in PD symptoms, and the wider effects of the pandemic may also have exacerbated the social isolation, apathy, and anxiety commonly experienced in PD. Non-medical approaches including physiotherapy and exercise are widely recommended for people with PD, and dancing is a multidimensional activity that offers an engaging, low-cost, and sustainable therapeutic option.

When the global spread of COVID-19 in early 2020 necessitated the suspension of group activities such as dance, providers of community dance programs worked quickly to transition to online delivery through video recordings, live streaming, and interactive videoconferencing platforms. Potential limitations of home-based programs should also be considered. For example, the need for confidence to engage with digital technologies, or the ability to afford digital access, may present barriers to participation.

A new study examined experiences and perceptions of digital dancing programs among people with PD during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aims were to capture initial data on engagement with these resources and to identify processes that may be involved, potential benefits and advantages, and limitations of home-based dance.

Responses were collected from 276 individuals, including 178 current users of home-based programs, the majority of whom were participating at least once per week. Among respondents not currently using digital resources, lack of knowledge and motivation were the primary barriers. Most participants (94.9%) reported that home based practice provided some benefits, including physical (e.g., balance, posture) and non-physical (e.g., mood, confidence) improvements. Participants valued the convenience and flexibility of digital participation, but noted limitations including reductions in social interaction, support from instructors and peers, and motivation. There was a strong preference (70.8%) for continuing with home-based practice alongside in-person classes in the future.

The present findings provide initial evidence that home-based dance programs are accessible and usable for people with PD, and may provide similar benefits to in-person programs, although potential barriers to digital participation were identified. There is a clear demand among current participants for continued use of digital resources alongside in-person provision. Furthermore, these resources may also increase the accessibility of dance and its therapeutic effects for people with PD who are unable to attend classes.

Source: Bek J, Groves M, Leventhal D, Poliakoff E. Dance at Home for People With Parkinson’s During COVID-19 and Beyond: Participation, Perceptions, and Prospects. Front Neurol. 2021 May 31;12:678124. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2021.678124. PMID: 34140925; PMCID: PMC8204717.

Image: Stanford University