Dance for health: improving fitness in African American and Hispanic adolescents

Public Health Rep. Mar-Apr 1995;110(2):189-93.


Cardiovascular disease begins early in life but might be prevented or delayed by primary prevention programs designed for children and adolescents. Regular physical activity is an important part of primary prevention programs, and school physical education programs have potential for the promotion of regular physical activity. Cardiovascular disease is the major cause of death among Hispanics and African Americans in the United States. Low levels of fitness and increased body mass index are common in African American and Hispanic adolescents. Increased physical activity and the adoption of healthy eating habits would increase fitness and reduce body mass index among these adolescents. The purpose of the study was to undertake a small-scale controlled trial to determine if Dance for Health, an intervention program designed to provide an enjoyable aerobic program for African American and Hispanic adolescents, has a significant effect on improving aerobic capacity, helping students maintain or decrease weight, and on improving attitudes toward physical activity and physical fitness. In the first year of the program (1990-91), approximately 110 boys and girls ages 10-13 years participated in an aerobic dance pilot program three times per week for 12 weeks. Dance for Health was revised and continued in the 1992-93 school year with seventh grade students and an added culturally sensitive health curriculum. Forty-three students were randomized to Dance for Health and 38 to usual physical activity. Those in the intervention class received a health education curriculum twice a week and a dance oriented physical education class three times a week. The usual physical activity consisted mostly of playground activities. Students in the intervention had a significantly greater lowering in body mass index and resting heart rate than students in regular physical activity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans*
  • California
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Dance Therapy / methods
  • Dance Therapy / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Program Evaluation / methods
  • Urban Population