Health benefits of Greek dancing extolled in research
Greek dancing has been recommended as a life-enhancing treatment for older people with heart failure.
Scientists backed the idea after a randomised trial found that patients who learned the taverna tradition developed stronger legs and could walk further and jump higher.
Compared with patients not given the Zorba therapy they had more strength and endurance.
Researcher Zacharias Vordos, from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece, said: "Greek dancing is an important part of weddings and other celebrations, and is popular among older people.
"We believed dancing would increase the attractiveness of rehabilitation programmes for patients with chronic heart failure. This was the first study to assess the impact of traditional Greek dancing on jumping ability.
"Patients who participated in Greek dancing jumped higher at the end of the training programme, probably because they had stronger leg muscles."
For the study, 40 Greek patients with chronic heart failure and an average age of 73 were randomly assigned either to enrol in a three month Greek dancing rehabilitation programme or continue their usual sedentary lifestyle.
Training took place at three municipal gyms and consisted of three 40 to 65-minute weekly classes.
At the start of the study, the researchers tested the participants' jumping ability, measuring both height and speed. Measurements were also taken of leg muscle strength and endurance was assessed with a six-minute walking test.
After three months, the patients who learned Greek dancing were able to jump 10% higher and 6% faster than the sedentary patients.
They also had stronger legs and could walk further.
Mr Vordos, whose findings are published in the European Journal Of Cardiovascular Nursing, said: "The physical benefits of Greek dancing should give patients more independence in daily life by helping them to walk and climb stairs. It should also improve their coordination and reduce their risk of falling and being injured.
"Attendance at the dancing sessions was more than 90% which suggests that this type of cardiac rehabilitation could attract more patients than the usual programmes. Traditional Greek dancing is enjoyable and sociable, and we have now shown that it leads to health benefits in elderly patients with chronic heart failure."
Greek dancing may also benefit the heart, he added.
Heart failure occurs when the heart is too weak to pump blood efficiently around the body.