Dance research is step to wellbeing

A drive to prove the health benefits of dance for patients at Cambridge University Hospitals is in full swing.

For the last three years, patients at Addenbrooke’s have been benefitting from opportunities to experience the healing power of dance – but now the connection between dance and health is being put to the test.

Over the next two years the impact of the Dance for Health programme, run by Addenbrooke’s Arts and funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust, will be evaluated by Anglia Ruskin University.

This is the first time that the benefits of dance in an acute hospital setting are being researched academically and it follows a pilot project that showed positive impacts on patients’ wellbeing as well as their balance and movement. The pilot project was supported by Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust.

Led by a professional dancer with the assistance of nursing staff and health care assistants, hour-long workshops on wards give groups of up to 12 inpatients the chance to enjoy dance and move within the limits of their abilities. Visiting family and friends are also encouraged to join in the session. 

Debra Quartermaine, the falls prevention lead nurse and co-ordinator of the project, said: “We all know the benefits of dance for the elderly but currently there’s relatively little research around the benefits of this form of exercise in an acute hospital.

“The aim of the project is to properly assess the impact of programmes like Dance for Health so that in the future maybe more hospitals could start to develop dance opportunities for patients.”

Dr Stephen Wallis, consultant physician, department of medicine for the elderly, at Cambridge University Hospitals, describes the programme as an “oasis of normality”.

He added: “The Dancing for Health project not only brings enjoyment and a smile for both patients and staff, but also helps promote recovery and return to active health.”

Dr Hilary Bungay, Reader in Health Services Research in the Faculty of Medical Science Anglia Ruskin University, said: “I have evaluated a number of different arts interventions designed to improve health so far, but little research has been carried out on use of dance in acute hospitals.

“We will be looking at wellbeing indicators and also the impact of the dance sessions on patients’ recovery, as well as other potential benefits of the sessions on staff and visitors.

“It will be interesting to see what evidence the evaluation unearths for the potential for dance and movement to impact upon patients’ recovery from illness when in hospital.”


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