The Italian Almanac


Italian News - November 13

Italian researchers have come up with a novel way for cardiac rehabilitation patients to exercise their damaged hearts without having to squeeze into spandex or gyrate in a gym: waltzing. The dance proved to be just as effective as bicycle and treadmill training for improving exercise capacity in a study of 110 heart failure patients. Dancers also reported slightly more improvement in sleep, mood, and the ability to do hobbies, do housework and have sex than the others.

''This may be a more effective way of getting people to exercise, and may be more fun than running on a treadmill,'' said Dr. Robert Bonow, cardiology chief at Northwestern Memorial School of Medicine. ''Maybe we should try that here. I'm not sure we can get Americans to waltz, but they can certainly dance.''

Exercise is crucial after people suffer heart problems, but getting people to stick with it is tough. As many as 70 percent drop out of traditional programs, said Dr. Romualdo Belardinelli, director of cardiac rehabilitation at Lancisi Heart Institute in Ancona, Italy. ''We have to find something that may capture the patients' interest,'' he said Sunday at an American Heart Association meeting in Chicago where he presented results of his study.

They chose waltzing because it is ''internationally known'' and is quite aerobic, as the study ultimately verified, he said. The same researchers previously showed that waltzing could help heart attack sufferers regain strength.