Psychophysiological Effects of Dance Movement Therapy and Physical Exercise on Older Adults With Mild Dementia: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2020 Feb 14;75(3):560-570. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gby145.


Objectives: Dementia interferes with older adults' functioning in cognitive, daily, psychosocial, and neuroendocrine domains. The present study examined the psychophysiological effects of dance movement therapy (DMT) and physical exercise for older adults with dementia.

Methods: This randomized controlled trial recruited 204 older adults diagnosed with mild dementia into the DMT, exercise, or waitlist control group. Both DMT and exercise interventions had similar intensity and comprised 24 hr of intervention that spanned over 12 weeks. All participants completed self-report questionnaires on psychosocial well-being, daily functioning, neurocognitive assessments, and salivary cortisol measures at baseline and 3 follow-up measurements more than 1 year.

Results: The DMT group showed significant decreases in depression, loneliness, and negative mood (d = 0.33-0.42, p < .05) and improved daily functioning (d = 0.40, p < .01) and diurnal cortisol slope (d = 0.30, p < .01). The effects on daily functioning and cortisol slope remained at 1-year follow-up. The exercise group of matched intensity showed no significant effects on the outcomes.

Discussion: The study findings support the potential utility of DMT as a multifaceted intervention for improving various aspects of functioning in older adults with declining cognitive abilities. The lack of beneficial effects for our exercise intervention and long-term DMT effects highlights the need to maintain persistent levels of exercise with adequate intensity and duration.

Keywords: Biomarkers; Longitudinal change; Memory; Mild cognitive impairment; Psychophysiology.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / rehabilitation*
  • Dance Therapy*
  • Dementia / metabolism
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Dementia / rehabilitation*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Single-Blind Method


  • Biomarkers
  • Hydrocortisone

Associated data

  • ChiCTR/ChiCTR-IOR-15006541