Why is Dancing So Good for You?

Jan 24, 2022

We all know dancing is good for us, but why? Turns out a twirl in the kitchen is one of the healthiest pastimes we can have, turning out better health outcomes than many other hobbies. So what is the magic sauce? Five reasons:

Music Wins Mental Health

Dancing nearly always involves some sort of music. Of course the benefits of music are incredibly well established, giving us shots of dopamine, nostalgia, and activating the pleasure centers of the brain. We listen to sad music when we're sad and upbeat music when we're happy (or Coldplay all the time), the ability of music to impact our mood and even our actions is incredible. Anyone with small children (or access to TikTok) can attest that babies can recognize music and will sometimes even begin moving with a beat. In addition to the melody, something as simple as an ongoing beat in music gives us a predictability that helps us feel safe as we recognize what is coming next. 

Aerobic Exercise & Physical Training

The elephant in the room is that dance obviously raises our heart rate and produces aerobic exercise (not to mention balance and muscle training through natural movement). With studies showing exercise may have similar benefits to drugs when dealing with heart disease, dancing becomes a highly appealing option. I am a huge proponent of dance as means to strengthen the feet and ankles, something that becomes more and more crucial as we age. In addition, the non-repetitive movements, control of momentum and subtle stretching help even the gym-faithful to stay loose and more flexible.

The Social Aspect

Dancing is largely a social activity, even if it's just with your partner. To quote Julia F. Christensen, "Moving in synchrony with others bonds us together. Even our immune systems get regulated by doing movements together with others, when we’re in the presence of people we feel safe with. We produce oxytocin and prolactin, which can make us feel consoled." When we attend social dances not only are we building relationships with others but we're also building a sense of "tribe" as we unite around a common interest. Katy Bowman encourages for families, "Impromptu dance parties (just put some fun music on) can work wonders for a household. It can be even more playful with some sort of game element. Dancing around and having fun is a simple way to be dynamic as well as connect (touch, affection, play) dynamically."

Balance and Spacial Awareness

As dance instructors ourselves we often come into a new student's lesson to find a young engineer struggling to figure out where his/her feet are. We affectionately call it "floating head syndrome." As a society we are often focused on something in front of our eyes and on a daily basis require very little awareness of our bodies. Once we start connecting our brains to our muscles the more we begin to understand where we are in space. Walking barefoot outdoors (carefully!) can help our proprioception as well by sending the brain information back about the texture of the ground we're walking on. In addition, our inner ears and many other factors help build our sense of spacial awareness and balance. Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld who published Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, says “In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that led to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.” The aforementioned strengthening of the foot and ankles can also help with balance issues as we are more stable and able to react to our environment.

Couples Build Connection

There is such an art to leading and following, ultimately you can do any steps you like (even just walking around a room) and if they are led and followed beautifully then something special is happening...not only will you both feel it but you'll look it too. The ability to communicate non-verbally is a treat for the senses. It takes time to build the confidence, connection and vulnerability to lead and follow but as that builds so does a deeper connection of trust between two partners. To again quote Christiansen (co-author of “Dancing Is the Best Medicine: The Science of How Moving to a Beat Is Good for Body, Brain, and Soul”) "People can be overwhelmed about what dancing can do... It can be difficult to understand. But I think science can really help with this, educating about the good things dancing does and the hormonal-neural cocktail going on."

Research shows you don't have to be a professional dancer to reap the most benefits from dancing. The physical, mental, hormonal, relational and chemical advantages are perhaps higher for people who dance primarily as a joyful hobby. The pure enjoyment and challenge is a huge part of the growth dance can bring, as it's as part of our DNA as building fires and watching the stars.



Get started today .... go dancing tonight

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