Dance and Diabetes

Dance Out Diabetes is a fun way to stay active and manage diabetes

Theresa GarneroBy Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE

Diabetes is like a dance.

Glucose patterns are rhythmic, rising and falling in relation to meals, activities, and a myriad of other variables. Dancing is rhythmically moving to music, using prescribed or improvised steps and gestures. Dance and diabetes both have an ebb and flow, a pattern—or not—and a co-existence of opposing forces: highs and lows, intake and expenditure, control and freedom.

Existentialism aside, dancing is certainly an excellent way to be active. And we need ways to inspire people to get moving. A recent study suggests that adults with and without abnormal glucose levels have similar barriers to physical activity: other priorities, lack of time, and being too tired. Does this ring true for you? The evidence is solid in demonstrating the effectiveness of dance and other physical activities in preventing and managing diabetes, yet knowing often doesn't translate into doing. And part of that may be based on fear of exercise-induced hypoglycemia (low blood glucose).

How do we overcome those barriers? Although this study did not examine the effect of having a community-based activity that is fun and offers support to manage lows, could that be a trigger to motivate or inspire people to be more active? According to a 2009 study by Murrock and colleagues, a 12-week dance and peer support group improved diabetes outcomes in African-American women. This group expressed enjoyment, camaraderie, and laughter, which in turn helped with attendance.

Dance Out Diabetes, a new San Francisco based non-profit, hopes to expand on these findings by offering ongoing opportunities that apply to more than one segment of the population regardless of physical locale. It will also address a critical component missing from most diabetes education programs: physical activity for the whole family. It's for all ages, all types of diabetes, and for family and friends. Dance Out Diabetes is about a community of health.

Founded by the author of this column, and guided by a stellar Board of Directors (including an endocrinologist, exercise physiologist, dietitian, nurses, certified diabetes educators, people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and at-risk community members), Dance Out Diabetes launches on World Diabetes Day, November 14, 2010. It will host regular dance events for the non-dancer in a diabetes-friendly, supportive environment, provide light dance instruction and free-dance opportunities, have a certified diabetes educator on-site to help with any lows or health issues, and measure key health markers over time.

Life is like a dance, and it has a beginning, middle, and end. Sometimes the "song" is harmonious and synergistic; other times the discord is oppressive. The trick is to find a way to keep on dancing in whichever way that manifests itself. We all have a choice whether or not to be active, and why not enjoy it by moving to the notes of our favorite tunes? Go get your dance on and feel the joy!


1 - The Free Dictionary.

2 - Hume, C. et al. Are Barriers to Physical Activity Similar for Adults With and Without Abnormal Glucose Metabolism? The Diabetes Educator, May-June 2010 26: 495-502.

3 - Murrock CJ, PA Higgins, and C Killon. Dance and Peer Support Improves Diabetes Outcomes in African American Women. The Diabetes Educator, Nov-Dec 2009: 995-1003.

Read Theresa's bio here.

Read more of Theresa Garnero's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: November 13, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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