Many studies have found that dancing can improve balance, even in frail elderly people. Some have shown improvements in gait, walking speed, and reaction time, as well as cognitive and fine motor performance. Dance studies have included jazz, ballroom, tango, folk, and a series of slow, low-impact dance movements—though any kind of dancing would likely be beneficial.
Interestingly, according to a review in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine in 2009, dancing may help people with Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by rigid muscles, slowed movement, and impaired balance.
Dancing may also be good for your mood. It has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, and stress and boost self-esteem, body image, coping ability, and overall sense of well-being, with the benefits lasting over time. In one study, it even helped control “emotional eating” in obese women who eat as a response to stress.
The authors of a meta-analysis of 27 studies on the effectiveness of dance movement therapy, published in Arts in Psychotherapy this year, concluded that dancing should be encouraged as part of treatment for people with depression and anxiety.
Though other forms of exercise can have many of the same benefits, dancing is more appealing to some people, so they are more likely to stick with it.
For example, at the end of a study that compared tango dancing to mindfulness meditation, 97 percent of participants chose to receive a voucher for a tango class rather than one for mindfulness meditation. (By the way, the study found that both activities reduced depression, but only dancing reduced stress levels.) In another study, attendance was higher with waltzing than conventional exercise, possibly because “dance is a form of exercise in which movement, social interaction, and fun are mixed together,” the researchers said.
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