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Music and dance: It's not just for enjoyment | Health & Wellness


Last updated 9/22/2022 at 10:28am

Several years ago I watched a documentary on how movement and music played a significant role in helping people manage Parkinson’s and dementia. I was fascinated by how someone with Parkinson’s disease could show little signs of tremors while they danced or rode a bike.

Similarity with how music affected someone with advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.

What exactly is music and dance therapy? As defined by the Cleveland Clinic, “Music therapy is an evidence-based treatment that helps with a variety of disorders, including cardiac conditions, autism,

substance abuse and Alzheimer’s disease. It can help with memory, lower blood pressure, improve coping, reduce stress, improve self-esteem and more.”

During music therapy, you may create music, sing, listen or move to music. You may also discuss lyrics and play instruments. According to Boston University, music helps us remember things that we have learned.

There is a reason commercials use catchy jingles. In dementia patients, music helps with face recognition and memory recall. We all have that one song that evokes a nostalgic feeling; it helps us remember a feeling of long ago.

Though music can energize and/or calm us, it also releases endorphins that can help reduce pain, stress and depression, and help us feel a greater sense of control of our environment.

Music therapy not only helps with people with memory loss or other chronic conditions, but it has also shown to be very effective in helping those who experience depression, trauma, or crises.

Dance therapy is type of therapy that uses movement to help individuals achieve emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration.

Exercise is good for everyone, but it can be especially beneficial for people with Parkinson’s. People who have Parkinson’s generally suffer from tremors, slow movement, stiffness, and trouble with balance. They can also have cognitive changes, fatigue, and mood disorders.

Research shows that dance can be especially beneficial for those with mild to moderate Parkinson’s.

Dance appears to be very helpful in improving gait and balance in Parkinson's patients. It also can provide social stimulation and support, which can be helpful in reducing depression and improving quality of life. Plus, dance stimulates cognitive functioning, an area that Parkinson’s patients often struggle with.

The types of dances that have shown to be helpful with Parkinson’s include Tango, Dance for Parkinson’s, and Zumba Gold.

For people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or have cognitive impairment, I highly encourage them to look into music or dance therapy. There are several locations in the greater Seattle area.

The Edmonds Waterfront Center currently has a Parkinson’s Dance and Movement class that is held in person and on Zoom every Thursday afternoon. Beginning in October, a music therapy class will start on Tuesdays.

For questions concerning either class or to register, you can call 425-774-5555 or go to http://www.edmondswaterfrontcenter.org.


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