Dance helps to keep you fit
Most of us are familiar with the great feeling obtained from spending time out on the dance floor. From weddings and holiday parties to aerobic classes or even dance lessons, moving our body often does a lot to lift our mood. It turns out there is a scientific explanation behind those mood-boosting moves, and there are ways we can use dance to improve our mental health.
There are many benefits of dance supported by research. For instance, dance improves your heart health, overall muscle strength, balance, and coordination, and reduces depression. These benefits have been seen across a variety of ages and demographics. These benefits to our physical wellbeing are widely acknowledged.
Dancing and our mental health
Recent studies have indicated that dance benefits our mental health.
One Swedish study by Örebro University looked at 112 girls, aged 13-19, who suffered from conditions such as depression and anxiety. Fifty-nine of the girls were randomly chosen to dance on two days a week while the other participants didn’t make any lifestyle changes.
The study showed that the group that danced showed an increase in their self-esteem. These positive effects even continued for four to eight months after their dance training ended. In total, an amazing 91% of the girls felt that the study had been a positive experience for them.
There are many scientific studies looking at the mental health benefits of dance, such as ‘The effects of dance over depression’, which demonstrated that depression levels decreased in university students who took dance classes.
Dancing for "grown ups"
Teens and Students aren’t the only ones who can dance their way to mental health. Senior adults (and adults of all ages) can reap the benefits too. A small group of senior adults, ages 65-91, was recently studied in the US. After taking 12 weeks of Zumba (a dance fitness class), the seniors reported improved moods and cognitive skills. Not to mention increased strength and agility.
Whether the music is slow and graceful or bouncy and energetic, music in a dance class can, in itself, help to improve your mood. The rhythms give your brain something to focus on and studies have shown that music alone can provide short-term relief from depression.
Dancing and the social effect
Aside from the benefits of movement and music, dancing also allows us to become more connected and social. Making new friendships or reconnecting in an old relationship can be a wonderful side effect of dance. These social interactions can go a long way in improving mood and mental health.
According to a study conducted by the University of Oxford, dancing alongside other dancers “lights up brain pathways”. As a result of this, dancers experience a sense of unity and community.
Don’t forget that, when you’re in a dance class, it’s not like joining a social group or therapy group. Because of the structured nature of a dance class, there’s no need to feel compelled to make small talk with others in the class, as you’re all focused on the teacher and their instructions.
If you like to improve your wellbeing, consider trying dance as a form of therapy. While dancing should never replace seeking out help from a professional, in case you suffer from depression, it can be one tool you use to stay healthy. A formal dance class, exercise class, or even alone in your room could be enough to make a difference.