A world first study from Western Sydney University and the University of Sydney has found that dancing can decrease the risk of heart disease in people over forty.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, draws on data from 48,390 Great Britain residents without cardiovascular problems between 1994 and 2008.

Researchers recruited people for over a decade to track the impact of dance on mortality from heart disease.

The survey included tests about frequency, duration and intensity of dancing and walking over time and the data was linked to the National Death Registry.

According to senior author and Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health, dancing is one of the best ways to protect from cardiovascular disease death.

“We should not underestimate the playful social interaction aspects of dancing which, when coupled with some more intense movement, can be a very powerful stress relief and heart health promoting pastime,” he said.

Those who participated and were at least slightly out of breath or sweaty while dancing had 46 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular death over a decade compared to those who lightly, rarely or never danced.

Lead author Associate Professor Dafna Merom, from the Western Sydney University School of Science and Health added that “compared to fast walking, dancing further reduced the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 21%.”

“Furthermore dancers are often dancers for life, so we don’t see the drop in and out as much as we do in regular exercise classes.”

To read the study go to www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(16)00030-1/abstract