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Can dancing slow cognitive decline and improve health of middle-aged and older Latinos?

KCH researcher looks at the benefits of dance

Can dancing slow cognitive decline and improve health of middle-aged and older Latinos? That’s something that KCH Assistant Professor Susan Aguiñaga is seeking to find out.

Aguiñaga has a new publication entitled, “BAILAMOS With mHealth Technology! Improving Physical Activity and Well-Being in Middle-Aged and Older Latinxs: A Pre–Post Feasibility Study” in the journal Health Education and Behavior. Aguiñaga and her collaborators looked at the physical activity and health outcomes of middle-aged and older Latinxs participating in BAILA TECH—an intervention that combines the BAILAMOS™ Latin dance program with mobile health technologies (such as a Fitbit Charge 2). The study found that participants in the intervention increased physical activity and fitness levels, social support, quality of life, and executive function.

BAILAMOS™ (Balance and Activity In Latinos, Addressing Mobility in Older Adults) is a Spanish-language, Latin dance program for older Latinos that was created by Dr. David Marquez at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Miguel Mendez, a professional dance instructor, Aguiñaga said.

For Aguiñaga, a Latina, the study is personal.

“I have witnessed how the social determinants of health create disparities that negatively impact my Latino community,” she said. “As a physical activity researcher, I know that many health disparities can be ameliorated through physical activity. I have chosen to create physical activity interventions that are community-based and culturally responsive for Latinos to reduce the burden of disease in this population.”

Aguiñaga said the study aim is to increase Latinos' physical activity levels and improve cognitive performance and/or slow cognitive decline in this population that is at high risk of health disparities, and particularly increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Aguiñaga said the most surprising result was an increase in 34 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at post-testing. The data was collected in Pilsen, a predominantly Mexican neighborhood in Chicago, she said.

The next step, Aguiñaga said, is to assess the efficacy of combining BAILAMOS™ with a culturally tailored diet program to see if it improves cognition further in middle-aged to older Latinos.

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