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Eurhythmics Cuts Risk of Falls By More Than Half

If you’re old enough to remember Eurhythmics as the British New Wave duo of Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart (signature song: “Sweet Dreams [Are Made of This]”), then this is an article you may find particularly useful. For your parents, anyway.

A new scientific study found that senior citizens could reduce their risk of falls by taking classes in eurhythimics, a program of physical movements set to musical rhythms. The program was developed in the early 20th century by composer Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, and is now widely used in the fields of music, theater, dance, and physical therapy. After just 6 months of a weekly one-hour eurhythmics classes, participants reduced the risk of falls by 54 percent.

That’s an amazing result. Compare it the effects of Tai Chi for the reduction of falls: Tai Chi has been shown to be a great way to reduce falls, but Tai Chi only reduced falls by 37 percent. Amazing. And people seem to really like it–about 80 percent of study participants kept up with the classes. It’s hard to get 80 percent of any group to do anything, let alone go to exercise class regularly.

In addition to reducing the risk of falls, people who took the eurhythmics classes also had a more regular gait, had better overall balance, and could multitask while walking–so, for example, they could walk and hold a conversation at the same time. (Although the scientists don’t actually say this, it means that the participants could finally walk and chew gum at the same time.)

How can you (or your parents) take advantage of this research? Well, chances are we’ll see a bunch of new eurhythmics classes in the future. But for now, we’ll have to make do with general guidelines for exercising to music. According to an article in The New York Times:

The program, developed by the early-20th-century Swiss composer Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, teaches movement in time to music, from Mozart minuets to jazz improvisations. Participants have to walk and turn around, stay in step with changing tempos, learn to shift their weight and balance, handle objects while walking, and make exaggerated upper-body movements while walking.

Simple enough to do: Hook up your iPod, put in the ear buds, step outside, and walk to a random assortment of musical beats. It’s more fun that exercising in a gym, and way more fun than recovering from bruises or broken bones from a fall.

RESOURCES

To read the full article in The New York Times, click here: Unsteady on Your Feet? Try Moving to Music

The scientific article citation: A. Trombetti, M. Hars, et al. “Effect of Music-Based Multitask Training on Gait, Balance, and Fall Risk in Elderly People,” Archives of Internal Medicine. Published online November 22, 2010. (abstract page)

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