A little over a year ago, I walked into a local dance studio, wanting to get my body moving in a fun, healthy way after two years of sitting on the couch from COVID and writing papers in grad school. I thought I would just be learning a few new moves, all while hoping I would finally figure out my left foot from my right, but little did I know I would be beginning a new hobby that I would become incredibly passionate about. Not only did I take up an activity that has led me to having a lot of fun, dance and dance classes has had a major impact on so many aspects of my wellbeing, including my mental health. While there is a myriad of ways that dance is beneficial, below are just a few of the different ways that dance has increased my quality of life.
Mood: Dance releases endorphins, a naturally occurring “feel-good” chemical in our brain that increase feelings of pleasure and decrease pain. Endorphins help reduce depression, anxiety, and improve your self-esteem. I always leave the dance studio, and dance socials with a big smile on my face, even if I didn’t do all the moves perfectly – I still had fun!
Community: Social interaction is incredibly important for mental health, and with dance you are always meeting new people. Meeting and socializing with people with a common interest helps foster connection and a sense of belonging. I have met some wonderful people through dance that have become very close friends!
Reduces stress: Raven Gibbs, a mental health professional and dancer, says, “As dance raises your heart rate and works your body, it also releases certain chemicals in the brain. It reduces cortisol, the natural stress hormone or what is more commonly known as the fight or flight hormone. Cortisol, in excess, can lead to high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and other health problems.” – Blochworld. My massage therapist has seen a large decline in the stress held in my body since I have begun dance!
Memory and Cognitive Function: It gets harder to remember certain daily details as we age, and learning new things, such as names of dance moves, can help keep our brain sharp and nimble. In a 2017 study done by Burzynska et al, they recruited older adults to walk, stretch, or country line dancing 3 days a week for 3 months. The group who learned to dance had greater density in the white matter of their brains (the part that processes memory) than those in the other groups. Although I am in my late 30s, my brain still gets a good workout during class as I try to remember all the steps and other details needed for a good dance!
Whether it be country line dancing, belly dancing, tango, or the waltz, there is likely a form of dance that will meet your interest and your physical ability. So go look up a local dance studio, find some free videos on YouTube, and begin to reap all the health benefits of dance! See you on the dance floor!
Staff Blogger: Stephanie Reaves, Peer Services Educator II
Stephanie Reaves grew up in the Philadelphia area and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Princeton University in New Jersey. She is earned her Master’s in Social Work (clinical concentration) at Bryn Mawr College in the Philadelphia area in 2023.
Stephanie enjoys being active in her community, and began volunteering at health fairs and other community events with MHA in 2017 after healing from her own struggles with mental health and substance abuse. Stephanie officially joined the team as a Peer Educator in 2019.
Stephanie enjoys hiking, cooking, writing, salsa/bachata dancing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She believes in the power of kindness and empathy to make a difference in the lives of others, and is involved in various community groups in the area.