Dance is a performance of sequences of body movements characterized by a range of rhythms and patterns. It is usually imbued with aesthetic and symbolic value, and may be freeform or purposefully choreographed. In some cultures, dancing is used to express ideas and feelings, communicate, or serve religious, political, economic, or social purposes; it can also be used as a form of recreation.
If you’re a little nervous about the thought of hitting the dance floor, rest easy—just about everyone can learn to at least waltz, and the benefits are pretty clear-cut. Studies show that dancing improves balance, coordination, and mobility—particularly as people age—and it can help prevent diseases like Parkinson’s.
The Mind and Dance
While dancing is often viewed as a form of entertainment, it can have many psychological effects as well. It can be a way to relieve stress, reduce the levels of the hormone cortisol in the bloodstream, and boost overall mood. People who practice dance report feeling happier, less stressed out, and more confident than those who don’t.
It can be hard to put your finger on exactly why dance has these positive effects, but researchers suggest that it has something to do with the combination of physical and mental activity. It involves a high level of attention, concentration, and coordination that requires the brain to stay engaged. Plus, the repetition of certain moves helps strengthen muscles—particularly those in the feet and legs—that are often overlooked in other types of exercise.