Health Benefits of Dancing

"In many shamanic societies, people who complain of being disheartened...or depressed would be asked, 'When did you stop dancing?' …This is because dancing is a universal healing salve." - Gabrielle Roth

So many dance students find that dancing greatly lifts their spirits; they often comment on the therapeutic value of Salsa classes!

For sure, listening to music makes people feel better--by activating endorphins. The same goes for physical exercise and socializing.  That makes dancing a recipe for improved well-being!

All dancers know the feeling.....  The elation that comes from moving to music in rhythm, the relaxation that results from concentrating on the beat and forgetting one's cares....

It also helps special populations such as those with Parkinsons syndrome.   Music that has enabled Parkinson's sufferers who were unable to walk, to start taking steps again.   

Below are articles on dance, music and health:

1.  Dancing for Health: Conquering and Preventing Stress by Judith Lynne Hanna, AltaMira Press, a Division of Rowman and Littlefield Publishers; 2006 (Book listing from Hanna’s website)

2.  Dance Therapy Article www.Wholehealthmd.com rapies&mid=&id=B11F5E72178C419CAF774DDBEB451FD7&tier=2

3  “Dancing Helps Boys With ADHD.”  Research project by Barbro Renck of Karlstad University and Erna Gronlund of the University College of Dance in Stockhom, June 8, 2006, and reported in The American Journal of Dance Therapy. 

4.  “The Mental Health Benefits of Music” by Darlene Oakley, August 18, 2010.,0

5.  “Shall We Dance?  An Exploration of the Perceived Benefits of Dancing on Well-Being” by Cynthia Quiroga Murcia, Gunter Kreutz, Stephen Clift, and Stephan Bongard; Arts and Health, Volume 2, Issue 2, Sept. 2010, pages 149-163.
Abstract at:

6.  “The Art of Healing: Visual and Performing Arts Take on a Bigger Role in Patient Recovery” by Beth Baker, Washington Post, August 17, 2004 Page HE01.  

7.  “Friends for Life: An Emerging Biology of Emotional Healing,” by Daniel Goleman;  New York Times, October 10, 2006.

8. Socializing Appears to Delay Memory Problems” by Tara Parker-Pope.  Reported in the New York Times Health Section, March 1, 2011. 

9.  "Dancing Away an Anxious Mind: A Memoir About Overcoming Panic Disorder" by Robert Rand. Copyright 2004 by University of Wisconsin Press.

10. "Dance Away Stress and Depression" by Christy Matta, MA, As reported in Psychology Today.  Link at:

11. "Hospitals Find That Alternative Therapies Are a Good Way to Attract Paying Patients," Washington Post Health Section, Nov. 15, 2011.  Link: This article discusses how hospitals increasingly offer art/music therapy to inpatients not only because it can be effective treatment and it helps attract patients to that hospital.

12.  "Brain Rules: Twelve Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School," by John Medina, Pear Press (P.O. Box 70525; Seattle, WA), Copyright 2008.  Professor Medina, is a developmental molecular biologist at the U. of Washington School of Medicine and the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University.  He explains how the brain functions at a molecular level and applies the results to how human beings can most effectively work, learn, and function.   His first rule is that exercise improves brain power. "To improve your thinking skills, move.”  

He also says that "on mental tests, exercisers outperform couch potatoes on long term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving, and fluid-intelligence tests.”  

AND, if "couch potatoes" start an aerobic exercise program, their cognivitve abilities improve. In fact, "couch potatoes" who are fidgetty, actually do a little better on mental skills than "couch potatoes" who don't fidget!  

13.  "Music, The Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination," by Robert Jourdain,  Avon Books, copyright 1997.  The book discusses the impact of music on the mind.  Its final chapter on "ecstasy" begins with findings of how helpful music can be in restoring Parkinsons patients to normal movement.  He also discusses how music generally increases feelings of well being in people.  

14.  "Music and Neuroscience:  What Happens to Your Brain Under the Influence of Music," by Alasdair Wilkins, io9--We come from the future, Sunday Jan. 6, 2013.  Here is the link:

15.  "The Scientific American Healthy Aging Brain: The Neuroscience of Making the Most of Your Mature Mind" by Judith Horstman, published by Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Imprint, copyright 2012 by John Wiley and Sons and Scientific American, copyright 2012. This exceedingly readable book of just 200 pages, reads like a summary of many of the other articles in this list.  Although the title makes it sound like a book about aging, it is really more of a book about how adults can get the greatest health and well being from their brains.  There is a great emphasis on exercise. Dance and particularly partnership dancing is specifically mentioned as a healthful activity.  

16.  "This Women Was About To Go In For Surgery. What She Did Moments Before Was Awesome" by Lori Leibovich, Huffington Post; 11.06.13.  The video shows the joy that dancing can bring, even in the face of a serious illness.

17.  This video about using movement as therapy.

18. This article summarizes very interesting research.  Among the findings is that groups of people moving together get a boost in pain tolerance.  But movement that isn’t synchronous for a group of people does not have this effect.

This last article suggests that mood is elevated by walking for 5 minutes every hour if one normally sits at a desk the entire workday.

20.  Research shows dancing boosts both happiness and cognitive skills.

21.  This article is about the benefits of doing activities in synchrony with other people.  Dance and rowing are mentioned but the emphasis in this article is on singing!