Dance scientist Dr Emma Redding says dance classes could help prevent falls, which are the biggest cause of emergency hospital admissions for pensioners in Britain and kill almost 5,000 people every year.
The slower, structured dance styles of tango and ballroom provide ankle and core strength for older people, helping them keep their balance.
Older people are more at risk of falling because of muscle deterioration and a loss of balance that comes with age, as well as sight problems and the side effects of medications.
Dr Redding also said dance classes can help widowed people who are lonely, while the traditional music they waltz to can bring back valuable memories for those with dementia.
Speaking before giving a talk at Cheltenham Science Festival, she said: ‘Dancing, you take physical risks you would not on your own. You shift your weight from side to side, from front to back, as you would not do when walking.
‘This helps with ankle and core stability and makes people much more confident when moving in everyday life.
‘The postural alignment is very important in preventing falls in older people and could help keep them safe.’
A review from 2009 found dance could ‘significantly improve’ older people’s muscle endurance and strength.
Another study has also found the Argentine tango may work better than walking to improve balance.
Dr Redding, who presented a show called Strictly Come Sciencing at the festival, said: ‘Tango and ballroom dancing make you aware of your body when it is moving.
‘You take a wider stance and the teacher provides you with cues on the correct posture.
‘This is very helpful in the rest of someone’s life to provide the skills to prevent falling.’