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6 Reasons Dance is Good for Your Mind and Body

By Fraser Senior Physical Therapist Katie Harguth and Pam Dewey • dancing, dance, dance therapy, benefits of dance, dance is good for mental health, mental health benefits of dance, mental health, mental illness, combat mental illness, dance benefits, dance is good for the mind, dance and depression, dance and anxiety, dance and dementia, dance and Parkinson's disease • September 01, 2022

Have you ever heard someone say, ‘dance it out?’ The phrase probably conjures an image of a sweaty pair, pressed close on a crowded dance floor.

However, there are many kinds of dancing, and moving your body to music can be beneficial to your wellbeing. Here are 6 reasons dance is good for your mind and body.

Dancing provides more benefits than other types of exercise

Exercising releases many positive chemicals in the body, like endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals increase good feelings in your body. Multiple studies show that dancing releases even more types of positive emotions. The Greater Good Magazine recently shared a quote from a study of 133 college students, which stated, “Dance made students feel particularly creative, intelligent, healthy, excited, and exhilarated. Compared to practicing sports, the dance students also felt more confident, relaxed, motivated, and energetic.”

Fraser Senior Physical Therapist Katie Harguth agrees that the mental health benefits of dance are powerful. “I’ve been dancing since I was 3. I love the feeling I get from it. I never feel down on myself, sad or anxious after I’ve danced. I just feel more focused and centered and happy,” says Harguth.

Dancing can help with mental health issues

Because dance releases positive chemicals in your body, it can also help decrease depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Various forms of dance can offer differing benefits. Dancing with a partner provides social interaction, which improves mental health. Free dancing, which is basically turning on music and moving your body however you like, can be very cathartic.

“Free dancing lets you move your body without boundaries,” says Harguth. “You can let go of expectations and release any bad feelings you might be experiencing.”

Dancing is for ANY body

Harguth also points out that you don’t need a specific body type or mobility to dance. Dancing can be for everyone.

“With other types of movement or exercise, you might need access to equipment, not have the physical ability or the right adaption.  The beauty of dance is there isn’t a limitation on who can dance and move their body. You just need music!” says Harguth.

Dancing + music is especially beneficial

Another benefit of dancing is music. Music also increases good feelings in our bodies. According to the Greater Good Magazine, another study found, “Music helped reduce cortisol, a hormone involved in our response to stress, while dancing with a partner increased testosterone.” So listening to music while you dance can help reduce your stress, and when you dance with a partner, the benefits are multiplied.

Dance is an important cultural touchstone

Not only is dance an important way to connect with others, but It can also be an important connection to your cultural identity. The Greater Good Magazine states, “For example, dance is central to the cultural identity of Indigenous tribes — and was banned at certain times in history alongside other Indigenous cultural practices.” Dancing is also an important part of many Africans’ culture, but when Africans were captured and brought to the U.S. as enslaved people, traditional dancing and singing practices were typically prohibited on plantations. Reconnecting with these types of dance can promote healing and transmit knowledge about culture. Professor Sean Asiqłuq Topkok founded an Inupiaq dance group and writes, “Traditional stories, including those conveyed through drumming and dance, can provide a meaningful educational approach for transmitting cultural knowledge, wellness and identity to youth and future generations.”

“Dancing can also educate other people about different cultures,” says Harguth. “When you’re dancing, there is always a story to tell with the way you move your body.”

Dancing can help with aging and combat some neurodegenerative disorders

Dancing also has benefits for people as they age. Another study compared the effects of walking, stretching and dancing on the brains of volunteers in their 60s and 70s. VeryWell Mind states, “The participants who learned country dancing now had denser white matter in the part of the brain that processed memory. White matter usually breaks down as a person ages, which may contribute to cognitive decline. Dancing, therefore, protected the brain from aging-induced neurodegeneration.” Dancing helps keep your brain active.

“It causes improvisation in your brain, which can stimulate memory. Dancing can also reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease and dementia,” says Harguth.

Dancing releases more feel-good chemicals than other types of activity, and it’s more accessible than other forms of exercise. Any person, regardless of ability or body type, can dance. Dancing can also help improve depression and anxiety, and listening to music while dancing can reduce stress. Not to mention, dancing is a way to recognize and express one’s culture. And for older people, dancing can help stimulate the brain, memory and combat dementia. And last but not least, dancing is fun!