Does Movement and Music Make a Difference?

Music therapists often use movement in sessions with clients.  Personally, I try to always include movement, especially with older adults mainly because their physical activity usually declines as they age.  Sometimes I may use a scarf or stretchy band to promote movement and then other times, I use playing instruments as a way to encourage movement. Either way, there are times when my clients who have advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s disease find doing the simplest physical task a challenge.  

The question graduate student Moore and her advisor Lesiuk asked was did putting music and movement together make a difference in cognitive decline for older adults, who either did or did not have a neurocognitive disorder.  Moore worked with 48 older adults, half who had some type of neurocognitive disorder and the other half did not. She used a combination of music and movement interventions (MMI) opposite a movement only intervention (MOI), which did not have music.  Moore created the one-session MMI and included a number of tasks that each client had to accomplish, which comprised of “playing musical instruments in time with familiar, recorded instrumental music… [and] involve tasks performing various functional movement in a cognitively challenging manner such as alternating or moving extremities together, midline crossing, or in various movement sequences” (p. 127).  

Her results showed that her MMI showed improvement in cognitive functioning for both groups of clients, those with and without a neurocognitive disorder.  Moore stated, “MMI participants appeared to enjoy the combination of familiar music an novel instrument playing tasks” (p. 127). She did state that those who participated in the MOI “got bored” (p. 127) with only doing movement and no music.

This one study shows that more research is needed to truly find out how music and movement support clients cognitively since this study showed that satisfaction played a major role in the client’s opinion and enjoyment.

For more information on music therapy, visit our website at or the American Music Therapy Association’s website at

Stephanie H. Morris, MM, MT-BC

Neurologic Music Therapy Fellow

Central Ohio Music Therapy, LLC

Moore, C., and Lesiuk, T. (2018).  The effect of a music-movement intervention on arousal and cognitive flexibility in older adults with and without mild neurocognitive disorder.  Music Therapy Perspectives (36)1, pp. 127 – 128. Doi:10.1093/mtp/mix025