Move for your Health; Benefits of Dancing

Switching Styles is here to bring you some musical inspiration for your health; Dancing. It’s simple but dancing is a very versatile and entertaining way to get the entire family moving. There are dances and dance moves for every body type, age range, mobility level and skill level.

“Both music and exercise help prevent and alleviate disease. Fusing the two may have even greater benefits than either alone,” explains Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch.

Exercise is good for you. It’s something that we all know. Moving around is beneficial for every aspect of your body and mind. There’s an immense amount of research proving the connection and exploring it in-depth.

The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that a lack of physical exercise increases the risk for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as stroke, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Physical activity is anything that includes “bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure”, which is a pretty broad description.

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Photo Taken by Dmitriy Protsenko”Dancing is accessible to everybody. People who can’t stand can use their arms; people who have lost movement in their arms can dance with their torso and legs. It’s a way to connect to your own body, to music, and to other people. It just depends on what your goals are. But we know that there are so many benefits of dancing—cognitive, physical, and social—that it merits consideration by everybody,” says Dr. Lauren Elson, a former professional dancer specializing in sports and rehabilitation medicine at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Network.

As was quoted earlier, dancing brings the benefits of music and movement into one activity. With different music tastes comes different dancing tastes. Dancing isn’t limited to a specific style or tradition of dance, as is shown by Jan Burkhardt and Cathy Brennan’s research published in Arts & Health.

“Three of the six studies showing improvements in cardiovascular fitness were aerobic dance interventions; however, notably the other three involved different dance forms. Aerobic dance was developed specifically to provide an aerobic workout and improve fitness; however, the other dance forms such as African dance, Hip Hop and Balinese dance have a range of social, cultural and artistic functions and yet still showed significant improvements in cardiovascular fitness. This may indicate that a range of dance forms can improve cardiovascular fitness.”

Burkhardt and Brennan published their paper, “The effects of recreational dance interventions on the health and well-being of children and young people: A systematic review” to highlight the benefits of dancing. The research concluding that there is a positive correlation between dancing and health. They aren’t the only researchers to bring dancing to light. This is just the beginning of the research. There are countless researchers connecting the dots between health and dance.

Cynthia Quiroga Murcia, Gunter Kreutz, Stephen Clift & Stephan Bongard have researched the health benefits of dancing, bringing it forward in an academic paper, “Shall we dance? An exploration of the perceived benefits of dancing on well-being” that looked at the benefit of dancing within musical environments to fill in the holes of previous research. Georgios Sivvas, Sofia Batsiou, Zarifi Vasoglou, And Dafni-Anastasia Filippou published, “Dance Contribution In Health Promotion” in the Journal of Physical Education & Sport finding that dancing helps to preserve and improve human health both physically and mentally.

Research goes in-depth to different ages and even nationalities to expand into niche research topics. Burkhardt and Brennan’s research specifically looks at how dancing benefits youth. As well, WHO suggests dancing specifically for younger age groups. Although dancing is seen as something primarily done by younger people, youth are not the only ones that benefit. Older demographics have increased risks for health issues.

Min Jeong Kim, and Chul Won Lee, have researched the benefits of dancing in middle-aged Korean women with significant psychological benefits, physical benefits, and social benefits. This demographic was chosen specifically because of the impacts of this age range for women increasing their vulnerability for mental and physical health concerns. The women in the study specifically enjoyed line dancing and “with their serious leisure experience of line dancing as a background, various health benefits were stated in detail. The research participants mentioned psychological, physical, and social benefits,” states the paper.

Jonathan Skinner continues to look at seniors, another vulnerable demographic, and the impacts of dancing. His findings concluded that there are social, psychological and health benefits of social dancing among senior citizens. A paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine corroborates Skinner’s research but specifically researches the benefits of dancing for dementia patients. Although looking at leisure activities in general, the researchers found that Dancing was the only physical leisure activity that was associated with a lower risk of dementia. Other leisure activities connected with lower dementia rates were reading, playing board games, and playing musical instruments.

Digging deeper into the connection between dementia and dancing, Debbie Duignan, Lynne Hedley, and Rachael Milverton published a paper in Nursing Times that found that in patients with dementia, dance therapy limited the agitation of patients. Dementia is a specifically highly researched area. There have been many debates about the use of some atypical antipsychotic drugs in managing agitation in dementia care. Much research has also been carried out in the area of psychosocial interventions, which can include dance therapy.

Sylvie burr | Dancing | Switching Styles
Photo Taken by Sylvie Burr

Health Benefits of Dancing

Of the research compiled in this essay, there are countless benefits to dancing including

  • Decrease anxiety, stress,
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Lowered risk for weight gain and obesity
  • Improve muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness;
  • Improve bone and functional health;
  • Reduce the risk of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and dementia,
  • Improve symptoms of mental illness
  • Reduce the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and various types of cancer
  • Reduce the risk of falls as well as hip or vertebral fractures;
  • Are fundamental to energy balance and weight control.

“Physical inactivity is a major public health issue in which dance could have an important role to play, “comments Burkhardt and Brennan, “Physical activity is an important factor, affecting cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.”

In conclusion, the research of the decade shows that dancing is a beneficial exercise regardless of circumstances. The benefits are not only physical but mental, emotional, and social.

Take your health and happiness into your own hands, or feet as the case may be!


Burkhardt, J. And Brennan, C., 2012. The Effects of Recreational Dance Interventions on The Health and Well-Being of Children and Young People: A Systematic Review. Arts & Health, 4(2), Pp. 148-161.

Duignan, D., Hedley, L. and Milverton, R., 2009. Exploring dance as a therapy for symptoms and social interaction in a dementia care unit. Nursing Times.

Harvard Women’s Health Watch, 2016. Let’s Dance! How Rhythmic Motion Can Improve Your Health. 23(10), Pp.-7.

Kim, M. And Lee, C., 2016. Health Benefits of Dancing Activity Among Korean Middle-Aged WomenInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 11(1), P. 31215.

Quiroga Murcia, C., Kreutz, G., Clift, S. and Bongard, S., 2010. Shall we dance? An exploration of the perceived benefits of dancing on well-being. Arts & Health, 2(2), pp.149-163.

Sivvas, G., Batsiou, S., Vasoglou, Z. And Filippou, D., 2015. Dance Contribution in Health Promotion. Journal of Physical Education and Sport, 2015(03).

Skinner, J., 2013. Social Dancing for Successful Ageing: Models for Health, Happiness and Social Inclusion Amongst Senior Citizens. Anthropology & Aging, 34(1), Pp. 18-29.

Verghese, J., Lipton, R., Katz, M., Hall, C., Derby, C., Kuslansky, G., Ambrose, A., Sliwinski, M. and Buschke, H., 2003. Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly. New England Journal of Medicine, 348(25), pp.2508-2516.




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