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Dance On Research

Find out more about the University of Leeds Dance On findings

Two women sat in chairs reach across to hold each others hands. Part of a Dance On session with darts in Doncaster.

What is Dance On?

Dance On is a pioneering approach to keeping older people active that is proven to improve mobility, social connection, balance and mood, and reduces fear of falling. Developed over the last seven years and led by darts, One Dance UK, the University of Leeds and Yorkshire Dance, Dance On has proved to be a highly successful model, enhancing the lives of hundreds of older adults – many of whom who were previously deemed ‘inactive’.

Funded predominantly by Sport England’s national Active Ageing and Local Delivery Pilot Programmes, with partnership funding from a range of partners including City of Doncaster Council, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Leeds City Council and Arts Council England, Dance On has enabled people who might not ordinarily access sports or fitness activities to become more physically active through regular fun, social, dance activity.

Participants have reported that taking part in Dance On sessions has improved their physical health as well as how happy and connected they feel to others, saying:

“I feel I can walk upstairs easier since coming here. I don’t stop halfway.”

“I have limited mobility, use a wheelchair and have COPD. However, the dance moves and exercise help with my mobility and give me a sense of freedom of movement.”

“Mentally I feel better because I tend to worry a lot, and while I’m dancing it takes my mind off things. It relieves stress, it’s really beneficial.”

The research

Along with feedback from participants, evidence has been backed up by a robust academic study undertaken by the University of Leeds. Dr Sarah Astill, Associate Professor in Motor Control in Leeds’ School of Biomedical Sciences led the research team and found that Dance On is an effective way of modifying well known factors which can predispose someone to fall and prevent the downward spiral into frailty.

The programme encourages regular physical activity for maintaining fitness and activity levels in a more subtle way than traditional physical activity programmes. Evidence showed that many attend for social opportunities and noted improvements to their mental as well as physical health through social interaction. A brochure with key findings can be downloaded here and the full mixed methodology study by the University of Leeds can be downloaded here.

A large group of older adults are dancing in acommunity centre. Their arms are outstretched diagonally as though reaching to the sky and towards the ground. Part of a Dance On session for over 50s run by darts in Doncaster.

Dance On toolkit

In 2023 darts, One Dance UK, the University of Leeds and Yorkshire Dance launched the Dance On toolkit to get more people moving. Based on over 7 years of academic research, sessions to develop the approach, conversations with participants, and experiences of working with older adults, the Dance On toolkit is aimed at dancers, care home staff, public health professionals, health & social care practitioners, and anyone who has an interest in the power of movement to give our ageing population more years better lived.

The free, downloadable resource condenses the key essential ingredients into an easy to read and accessible document.  From sourcing the right venue to choosing motivating music, from developing community ambassadors to writing risk assessments, this Toolkit provides bite sized ideas, case studies and templates for anyone looking to develop their own dance programme for older people, or for dancers or care staff to improve their practice.

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