Health And Wellness

Why People Who Dance Are Happier, Healthier & Smarter

Photo: Andrii Kobryn / Shutterstock
woman dancing listening to music

I'm not a dancer, but I've danced my whole life. When I was a little girl my mother would do a dance move and ask, "Is this how you do it?" I'd shake my head no and proceed to dance my tushie off, showing her how it was done.

I took dance lessons, did musicals in school, and throughout my life have taken dance classes. I suck at dancing, but I do it anyway because it makes me feel good to move my body.

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In a piece on Elite Daily, writer Alexa Mellardo says, "Dancing is not just a hobby or passion — it's a lifestyle. From tiny tutus to the big leagues, we've danced our hearts out on stage in gorgeous leotards, and costumes; we've dealt with all sorts of blisters on our feet. The irreplaceable memories that have gotten us to where we today show that the battle scars are well worth it."

Dancing is good for you in so many ways. And here are just a few of them.

Why People Who Dance Are Happier, Healthier & Smarter

1. It's an extreme workout. 

Dancing gets the heart pumping! One study found that people with cardiac conditions who danced for just 20 minutes, three times a week saw their hearts improve significantly more than those who stuck to traditional cardio workouts.

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2. People who grew up dancing are less stressed. 

In a Swedish study involving 112 female teens, researchers found that teens who included dancing in their weekly routines saw positive results. All of the participants were dealing with back and neck pain, anxiety, depression, or stress.

Half of the girls were involved in dance classes each week, while the other half were not. The girls with dance in their life saw improvement in their mental health and also reported experiencing a mood boost.

"According to these results, despite problems such as stress and other potential challenges in being an adolescent girl, dance can result in high adherence and positive experience for the participants," said the study's lead author, Anna Dubert. "This might contribute to sustained healthy habits."

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3. It makes you happier. 

A University of London study found that dance causes the brain to release mood-lifting neurotransmitters within brain cells that spur the growth of new neurons and new cell connections, literally making minds more supple.

For the study, researchers assigned patients with anxiety disorders to spend time in four therapeutic settings: a modern-dance class, an exercise class, a music class, or a math class. Only the dance class significantly reduced anxiety.

In another study from the University of Wolverhampton, participants in modern-dance classes experienced short-term mood boosts, suggesting that the sense of achievement and well-being that comes from expanding and perfecting one's movement repertoire can carry over into other areas of life.

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Movement is crucial for good sense. Dancing isn't just moving — it involves all of your body, heart, and soul.

So even if you suck (like me) at dancing, do it anyway. Take a class even if you think you'll be terrible; it will do so much for you, and more.

Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, and Woman's Day. Visit her website or her Instagram.