What are the mental health benefits of Dance Fitness?
Updated: Jun 23, 2022
© Copyright 2021 Artwork by Cordi Neckermann
Every day I see another statistic about how more and more people are feeling low and lonely. Every time I say to myself, I wish they would just come dance with me. I know exercising would cheer them up and when you dance you are never alone.
Moving our bodies has a direct effect on our metal health and dancing in particular, is more than just a workout. Dancing hovers on the edge of art and sport; spilling into both areas. Every dancer is an athlete and an artist at the same time. This isn't just true for the professionals, but for everyone who boogies on the dance floor. Dancing is quite sweaty business and is always a form of expression. No dance move is the ever the same. Every single person brings a different energy onto the dance floor and it is always beautiful.
The benefits of dance fitness flow into all areas of our life from boosting confidence to enhanced cognitive skills. When you choose dance or dance fitness as your workout, you are guaranteed to receive additional mental health benefits that other workouts may not deliver.
Bring on the happy hormones
According to psychologist Dr Peter Lovatt of the University of Hertfordshire, “We appear to get a much bigger release of endorphins when we dance than during other forms of exercise”.
Endorphins boost our sense of pleasure, help us deal with stress and reduce feelings of pain. An extra dose of endorphins causes a positive feeling in the body that lasts long after the dance fitness class is over, so it brings a more positive outlook to life with it.
There are three more neurotransmitters that are related to feeling uplifted and they all find their way into your system in a dance fitness class. The mood hormone Serotonin helps us hold onto that feeling of happiness and wellbeing and is naturally increased because we are moving our body.
The “feel-good" hormone dopamine comes into play as well. Dopamine is released when your brain is expecting a reward. We all know that exercising is important but it can also be sooooo boring, so not many people really look forward to exercising in reality. Now, looking forward to a dance party is a different story altogether. Even though you might not be up for it 100% because you still need to get there in the rain and your energy may not be the highest that day, once you hit that dance floor and the music fires up, you know you are going to have an absoulute blast! This is the moment where the hormone dopamine works its magic.
Last but not least, the bonding hormone oxytocin finds iys way into the mix. Oxytocin is released when we physically come into contact with or bond with other people. Whilst we are not necessarily coming into physical contact with people in a dance fitness class, dancing together to the same beat and having fun creates a special connectedness that is unique to dancing - take Strictly Come Dancing, for example. Dancing together is a community-building booster and the perfect trigger to raise your oxytocin levels, releasing feelings of love and trust into your system.
Working those brain cells to maintain a healthy mind
Brain health has become more and more relevant in recent years. Several studies have shown that dance can significantly improve your brain health and it is a brilliant challenge for your brain - some might even equate it to a mental brain teaser in disguise.
Copying the movements that we see quickly, staying in sync with the rhythm of the music and remembering movement patterns challenges our brain to form new neural passageways. Adding these extra challenges of dance to your fitness routine will give you double the benefits and keep your brain sharp, no matter what your age.
The saying: 'You can’t teach an old dog new tricks' doesn’t hold true any longer. In countless scientific studies, it has been proven that the older we become, the more important it is to learn new things and challenge our brain power to keep our brain fit longer-term.
The deeper brain challenge in dance fitness is the repeated practice of the same choreography over the course of several classes, enabling us to commit the routine to memory without much conscious effort. Simultaneously adding more complexity to the movements and making slight changes from one class to the next, will still keep the approach fresh for your brain and create new connections between brain cells.
Learning new things and having fun at the same time makes room for more curiosity, not just on the dance floor but in life as well. When you can master something new on the dance floor, you can master new situations in life too.
Rocking it with more ease and grace
Coordination and balance go hand in hand. When your coordination skills increase, your ability to balance does too. Through dancing and dance fitness, you can significantly improve your ability to use all parts of the body in unison in a smooth and graceful way. In short, going to dance fitness classes can massively improve your hand-eye coordination.
Repetition and practice are the magic words when it comes to improving coordination and balance. Whilst following along in a dance fitness class, you hone all your cognitive skills as you are copying your Instructor. And with every class you take, the ability to quickly translate the moves improves, as well as your sense of balance.
Balance and coordination are physical abilities, but when it comes to mental health, they play a huge part as well. Feeling more stable and in control of your movements has a direct influence on how you feel in your own skin.
Dancing is moving meditation
Meditation in its traditional form of sitting down and being still,doesn't necessarily work for everyone. But you can achieve the positive after-effect of meditation through dancing as well. The first step in meditation is to stop your mind from wandering and bring your mind in to focus on the present moment.
When attending a dance fitness class you soon realise that there is not much brain capacity left to think of anything else but the moves and the music. Creating a one-point focus, you allow your mind to be engaged with one thing only, giving you space to forget about all your stresses in that moment.
It takes some practice to be able to let go and get lost in the music and movements. The first step is to be willing. It isn't easy to do for everyone, but the relief of stress this brings and the wonderful feeling of being centred and present are worth the effort.
On a mental health level, letting go and bringing your focus into the present moment can be an amazing stress buster. Holding onto perfection too much can have a detrimental effect on your mental health. The practice of letting go of perfection in a dance fitness class can have a positive influence on your daily life, as well as your mental health, by reminding you that moving forward is sometimes more important than perfection.
Posture, Confidence and Expression Power
Posture, confidence and expression are closely related to each other when it comes to dancing, as well as in life. With good posture comes confidence and an enhanced ability to express and communicate your thoughts and feelings well to others.
Thinnk of the dance floor as a testing ground of how it feels when we step fully into being ourselves. The music has a stimulating effect to inspire and motivate us, even if we can't quite do all the moves. Working through these moments of imperfection and improvisation is good practice in allowing ourselves to let go, not taking ourselves too seriously and to adopt a 'fake-it-till-you-make-it' approach. Maintaining our upright posture whilst our legs are in a twist....this can be very useful, not only on the dance floor, but also dealing with things in everyday life!
Side effects may include madly falling in love with your workout
We can fall in love with dancing over and over again. There is so much variety out there in differing styles of dance and music. Dance always has something new to offer to keep us coming back for more. And let's be honest, that really is the key - to keep us coming back! When you love your workout, you will happily come back for more time and time again and feel the benefits of exercising and dancing, whether they be mental or physical.
Personally, I have experienced and profited from each and every benefit of dance and dance fitness and each time, dancing grounds me and brings me back home, allowing me to become one with myself and love myself for who I am. Dancing inspires self-acceptance and self-love and brings people together from all cultures and walks of life.
I have grown to believe that dance and music have no language, they are a language that every person speaks fluently, and we can use them to connect with each other.
Martha Graham said it perfectly:
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
So let’s get dancing! For the sake of your beautiful and unique expression, for the sake of connecting to other dance loving humans and for your own mental health and wellbeing.
Click here to book a class with me online or in the studio!
I can’t wait to dance with you soon,
This article was featured in https://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/health/cordula-neckerman-dance-fitness-8463560?fbclid=IwAR2R3UsTj9v52xpV-sv4t6draRAkVbDQ2Gp7b-aq3Pi0p5sen5sjMqVFp9k
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