How Dancing Improves Your Physical and Mental Health

Music and dancing are magic to human beings. Both art forms change our bodies’ chemistry and mood just by experiencing them. Dopamine, a chemical the body releases to enhance the feeling of good experiences, flows freely through the brain when we’re enjoying a good tune and swaying to the notes. 

It’s hard to resist moving a little when listening to one of your favorite songs, too. People have been dancing for thousands of years as part of cultural rituals, art, and personal expression, after all. Many Americans have taken a dance class or two, and even more dance at home when no one is watching. 

Dancing isn’t just good for the soul – it comes with myriad physical and mental health benefits. It’s one of those elusive healthy practices that has no downside. Here are the top five health benefits of dancing.

The Biggest Impacts Dancing Has on Your Physical and Mental Health

Research from Frontiers in Human Neuroscience showed that dancing proved better than traditional exercise for slowing down signs of aging in the brain. Other forms of exercise were helpful, but only dancing showed such significant behavioral changes in older adults. The secret lies in the way the brain and body interact to dance. Cerebral functions work perfectly in step with muscle memory, performing their own kind of dance, and improving brain function.

Health Benefits of Dancing to Elderly Couple

Dancing is a social activity that works your body and mind, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it does a lot of good for a person. The specific health benefits of dance are numerous, and include:

Dancing Makes You Feel Good

The underlying factor connecting every health benefit we’re about to discuss is joy. Dancing makes you feel good, which gives an added boost to all the other mental and physical benefits. It isn’t a chore, like a workout can be, because it’s more than just synchronized steps. It’s an activity that boosts your mood, self-esteem, and confidence. Learning the steps to a dance and executing them to perfection is a confidence booster for anyone.

Dr. Karen Threlkel learned early in her education as a dance major at the University of Maryland that modern dance is grounded in the earth and the body’s natural ways. She embraces the concept in her practice of naturopathic medicine and has seen the benefits in her patients.

Eases Anxiety and Depression

happy dancing woman

Dancing your heart out to the playlist from your high school graduation eases the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Raising your heart rate and moving your muscles has been shown to reduce and even eliminate the sadness, melancholy, and blues that come with depression.

Panic and anxiety also vanish when you’re dancing. Your mind is preoccupied while concentrating on your body’s steps, music, and movement – so focus shifts from anxiety to the dance. You replace the repetitive negative thoughts with constructive learning.

Improvements in Cardiovascular Health

Practicing tricky dance moves, or even simple ones, is exercise. You’re increasing your heart rate and giving your heart a workout. The Department of Health and Human Services’ physical activity guidelines for adults state that we should get either:

  • A minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 
  • A minimum of 75 minutes a week of high-intensity exercise

Dancing covers all those bases.  Any form of dance will give your heart rate a healthy boost. 

Emotional Benefits

Health Benefits of Dancing to People

Dancing is a skill that anyone can participate in. You don’t have to be part of a special club or have a high IQ to cut loose in your kitchen when The Rolling Stones come on the radio. Go to any dance floor and you’ll find people of all skill levels giving it a go. This offers many people a freeing feeling. It equals the playing field for people who are usually too shy to join the crowd.

There’s something incredibly exhilarating about dancing on a full dance floor, as well. There isn’t much talking in dancing, so it can be an excellent outlet for people who experience social anxiety. Dance clubs and teaching studios are also great places to meet people – another upside for those with social issues. 

Improves Balance and Strength

Most common exercises, like running, stair machines, and cycling, all work the sagittal plane of the anatomy that divides the left from the right. Dance is an effective exercise activity because it incorporates movement from every direction on all planes. Every muscle is turned on and conditioned, which also helps improve balance and strength.

Improved Balance in Older Adults

elderly couple dancing

Several studies have shown the great benefit of dancing for older adults. The improvements in balance and mobility significantly reduce the incidence of falls for older people who regularly practice dancing. 

Dancing is an expression of the joy of life. It is also a valuable tool for our health and well-being. Dr. Threlkel ended her college years with a degree in kinesiology, the study of human motion, and a deeper understanding of anatomy and physiology and the way dance can work to heal more than the soul.

Get Help From the Top Naturopathic Doctor in the Washington, D.C., Area

Holistic medicine is healing for the mind, body, and spirit, focused on the person, not on the ailments that trouble them. Dr. Karen Threlkel offers a wide range of naturopathic medical services in her practice, all aimed at finding a natural path to improving your well-being.

Contact Dr. Threlkel to schedule a consultation about your health issue or learn more about natural remedies or treatments.

About The Author:

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Threlkel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The National College for Naturopathic Medicine (now called The National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology from The University of Maryland. She is licensed in Naturopathic Medicine by the Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Threlkel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past president & current member of the Washington DC Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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