Can Athletes Dance Their Way to Agility? - Part 2

Dance training, Agility and Speed

Sports science research supports the notion that ballet and dance can enhance agility and other measures of sports performance. A team from Sweden studied the contribution of dance to cross-country skiers of various ages (2). They evaluated the effects of dance training on the speed and agility of young cross-country skiers (aged 12 to 15) and the joint mobility and muscle flexibility of the spine, hip and ankle over three and eight months. Twenty elite cross-country skiers participated in the study. Five males and five females received dance training (intervention group) whilst five males and five females did not dance (control group). The results were as follows:

  • Speed and agility measured by hurdle test; the intervention group improved their test scores after three months by 0.8 seconds and after eight months by a further 0.6 seconds;
  • Speed and agility measured by slalom test; the intervention group made similar improvements – 0.3 seconds after three months and 0.02 seconds after eight months;
  • Joint mobility; skiers in the intervention group increased their flexion-extension of the thoracic (upper) spine by 7.5 degrees after three months and by 9 degrees after eight months.

Obviously pleased with their findings, the researchers then evaluated whether dance training could have similar positive outcomes for older skiers (mean age 19) (3). They considered speed and agility again using similar tests, but this time also analyzed the effects of dance training on reducing lower back pain.

In contrast to the study above, they found no positive correlation for speed and agility, but did discover that back pain was reduced in four of six subjects from the intervention group who initially complained of ski-related back pain. This contrasted with three subjects with back pain from the control group whose symptoms remained unchanged. The researchers concluded that ‘Dance training improved the range of hip motion and joint mobility and the flexibility of the spine’ and that ‘These improvements might explain the reduction in ski-related back pain in the intervention group.’