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Could Patients Tap Their Way To Better Health?

When recommending activity regimens to patients, is one style of dancing an “untapped” resource?

A recent study in BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care examined how tap dance as an activity might affect plantar pressure, postural stability, ankle range of motion and lower extremity functional strength for older patients at risk for diabetic foot complications.1

This randomized, single-blind, prospective study looked at 40 at-risk patients. One cohort (n=20) underwent tap dance training for 16 weeks, in one-hour sessions, three times a week. The other cohort only attended one hour-long educational workshop per month for those four months. Researchers gathered multiple data points on each participant. After the 16 weeks, the tap dancing subjects showed improvement in ankle plantar flexion range of motion, lower extremity functional strength and length of center-of-pressure trajectory with the eyes both closed and open. While there were improvements in noted plantar pressures in the dancing cohort, the authors feel a longer training period would be necessary for this metric.1

This study shows us that tap dancing could be an appealing physical activity alternative for patients, especially as one that is modifiable for a variety of ages and ability levels. Whatever type of activity people can adhere to is likely to be successful. There are a wide variety of clinical situations that might benefit specifically from a program such as the one in this study, including general conditioning, post-ankle surgery and proprioceptive training. 

Dr. Armstrong is Professor of Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. He is the Director of the Southwestern Academic Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA). 

Editor’s note: This blog originally appeared at: It is adapted with permission from the author.


1. Zhao Y, Cai K, Wang Q, Hu Y, Wei L, Gao H. Effect of tap dance on plantar pressure, postural stability and lower body function on older patients at risk of diabetic foot: a randomized controlled trial. BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2021;9(1):e001909.

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