BAILA: Being Active, Increasing Latinos Health Aging

Research Team

David Marquez, Principal Investigator, University of Illinois
JoEllen Wilbur, Co-Investigator, Rush University College of Nursing

Award Period


Funding Source

National Institutes of Health


Older Latinos are expected to constitute 20% of the older adult population by 2050. Physical activity (PA) can influence potential declines in the health outcomes of physical and cognitive function that lead to self- reported functional limitations and disability. Unfortunately, Latinos aged 65-74 are 46% less likely to engage in leisure time PA than older non-Latino whites, and little is known about PA maintenance among ethnic minorities. In part due to low levels of PA, older Latinos are twice as likely to report difficulty walking than non- Latino whites and Alzheimer’s disease symptoms begin 7 years earlier in Latinos than in non-Latino whites. Participation in PA has substantial potential to help older Latinos maintain both physical and cognitive function as they age. Dance holds promise as a culturally appropriate form of PA for this disadvantaged population, and is a form of PA that challenges individuals both physically and cognitively. To date, PA programs designed for older Latinos are lacking. BAILAMOS(c) is a dance program that has been developed based on input from older community-dwelling Latinos and in collaboration with an accomplished Latin dance instructor. A single group, pre-post 3-month pilot of BAILAMOS(c) demonstrated substantial program feasibility, and effect sizes indicated greater self-reported participation in lifestyle PA, along with improvements in physical and cognitive function. The original 3-month BAILAMOS(c) dance program has been revised according to participant and dance instructor feedback. A randomized controlled trial (RCT) is proposed in sedentary, older Latinos at risk for disability. Participants will be randomized to the BAILAMOS(c) condition or a health education attention control group. BAILAMOS(c) encompasses four dance styles with the simplest style introduced first (i.e., Merengue) and the most difficult style last (i.e., Salsa) to enhance self-efficacy. Each style is taught for four weeks, twice weekly for one hour per class (32 sessions total). Group discussions on how to increase lifestyle PA are included. To enhance maintenance of PA after the formal program, 2-3 “indigenous leaders” from each site will be trained to teach the 4-months of dancing of BAILAMOS(c). Control condition activities consist of health education classes conducted in Spanish by bilingual/bicultural health educators of University of Illinois Extension. A total of 332 older Latinos will be recruited across nine sites over three years. Sites include senior centers, community centers, and parks. Each site will enroll approximately 40 individuals (20 treatment, 20 control). This clinical trial will test the impact of the BAILAMOS(c) program on lifestyle PA at 4 months and BAILAMOS(c) maintenance activities on lifestyle PA maintenance at 8 months. The impact of the BAILAMOS(c) program at 4 months and BAILAMOS(c) maintenance activities at 8 months on self-efficacy (mediators) and on health outcomes of physical function, cognitive function, and self-reported functional limitations and disability will be tested. Long term goals include the prevention of disability among this disadvantaged group.