5 Benefits Of Dancing - SACAP
Applied Psychology

5 Benefits of Dancing

Apr 29, 2024
Senior couple enjoying the benefits of dancing together

The benefits of dancing extend far beyond fun and exercise. Here are five good reasons to dance – at weddings, parties and maybe take up a Zumba Class.

1. Increases Empathy

Empathy plays an important part in determining the quality of our connection with others. It’s about wholeheartedly trying to understand another person’s emotions and where they come from.

Researchers at City, University of London, and the University of the Balearic Islands, tested the emotional response of test subjects. 19 ballet dancers and 24 people with no dance experience, participated in the study. They were linked up to electrodes to detect sweat (unconscious response). This was to gauge their reactions to a range of emotions as expressed in videos. Test subjects were also asked to rate their emotional responses. And report if the ballet movements watched made them happy or sad.

Unsurprisingly, the ballet dancers were able to better identify the emotions being portrayed through dance. And their bodies were more sensitive to the portrayed emotions. In contrast, the people without dance experience didn’t exhibit a physiological variance. Thus, suggesting that those who train in physical expressions are more sensitive to them.

Essentially the conclusion is that dancing makes people more emotionally sensitive and aware. And according to psychologists, it increases empathy. It also indicates that it’s likely that neurocognitive mechanisms, which make people more sensitive, can be trained.

2. Mood Booster

Swedish researchers studied more than 100 teenage girls to determine the impact of dancing on mood. All participants struggled with issues, such as depression and anxiety. What they found was fascinating. And quite helpful.

Half the girls took part in dance classes. It was found that their mental health improved and they reported a boost in their mood. The girls who didn’t participate in the dance classes did not show the same results. Additionally, it was shown that the positive effects of dancing lasted for up to 8 months after the classes ended! It was also found that dancing results in a much bigger release of endorphins than other forms of exercise.  This is because dancing connects with the emotional centres of the brain. For some, this means feelings of uncomplicated happiness and for others it can make them cry. Thereby proving that dancing is also cathartic.

3. Cognitive Benefits

Researchers have also studied the impact of dancing on our cognitive capabilities. Study participants were taken into a music lab. They were asked to listen to music for 5 minutes. During which they could either sit and listen, exercise on a stationary bike or get up and dance. Later their problem-solving skills were tested. Of the three options, those who had chosen to dance improved their cognitive skills the most.

4. Creates Connections

Aside from the benefits of movement and music, dancing also allows us to become more connected and social. Dance psychologist Dr. Peter Lovatt of the University of Hertfordshire, says that it’s been scientifically proven that dancing helps with social bonding. Consequently, making new friends or reconnecting with old friends can be a wonderful side effect of dancing. In turn, these social interactions boost our mood and mental health.

5. Counteracts Ageing

Studies reveal that older people, who regularly participate in physical exercise, can reverse the signs of mental and physical ageing. Exercise can also positively counteract the effects of ageing on the brain.

Elderly volunteers joined a study conducted at the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases. Over a period of 18 months, they were assigned to either learn dance routines or participated in endurance and flexibility training. Both groups’ hippocampi were found to have improved. This is the part of our brain which controls memory, learning and balance. And is prone to age-related decline. Consequently, it is impacted by forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, it was noted that only dancing corresponded to noticeable differences in behaviour. These differences are attributed to the extra challenge of learning dancing routines.

The lead author of this study, Kathrin Rehfeld, concluded that physical activity is an important lifestyle factor. And dancing is an effective way of countering several health risk factors. In doing this it slows down age-related decline. Consequently, it can make a difference in how long we remain independent and result in an overall healthier life.

Study the Mind

The nature of the human mind is a fascinating topic. If you are interested in learning more about how the mind works then consider studying psychology at SACAP. SACAP offers a range of psychology courses on a full-time or part-time study plan as well as online. Enquire today.

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