Does Dancing Decrease Stress?
Do you ever feel really stressed after work and then you go dancing and it all disappears? Many of my students have told me how dancing decreases their stress levels, how they always feel better after dancing, and I even have some students that have shared with me that they have been able to come off their anti depressive medication after starting dancing! Due to the lack of research I decided to do research into this topic for my MSc dissertation for Psychology of Sport and Exercise, and I was even surprised by my findings!
Previous research on physical activity and stress has found that exercise in general reduces stress. This is due to an increase of endorphins during exercise, social interaction when exercising with others and an increase of self-esteem when mastering a new task. The positive effects, both physiologically and psychologically of physical exercise are well documented and it has even been found that if physical inactivity could be reduced by just 10% worldwide, then that would avert more than half a million deaths annually!
Dancing has been found to have positive effect on both psychological and physiological health. It has found to decrease cardiovascular diseases and decrease the risk of dementia by 76%(!!). Some research even suggest that because of the opportunity for expression of emotions through dancing, social interaction and the fact that it involves music, dancing would be more beneficial than other types of exercise.
So after looking at the research on physical activity, dancing and stress, I made my hypothesis, which was that dancing decreases stress and increases positive mood…and on top of this, I set out to find out, that if this was the case, WHY?
I had 47 participants and they all participated in dancing, as well as another form of exercise, which was anything from swimming to hiking. I found that dancing significantly decreased stress and significantly increased positive mood. 91.5% said that dancing has an impact on how they were feeling after the class, and the ones that answered that it had no impact said it was because they were already feeling great! The participants said that the dance class made them feel happier, livelier, positive, relaxed and in a better mood. One mentioned, “I am more lively and I just want to exercise more!”
I also decided to find out why the participants were feeling so much better after dancing. Most people mentioned that the music and moving with the music made them feel happy, and most importantly made the exercise enjoyable and made them forget they are exercising, as they were having so much fun. Some also mentioned that the social interaction and the smiles from the other people having fun made them feel better, as well as the positivity and good feedback from the teacher. I would love to hear how you feel after your dance classes and why you think that it makes you feel like that in the comments!
You might think that you have no time to exercise or dance, but finding the time really has great benefits, and it has actually been found that in groups with very high stress, exercising did not increase their stress levels, even though it was an extra thing to do. So no more excuses, get dancing!
I would love to hear your comments, or if you have any questions or would like to hear more about the research behind this article, don’t hesitate to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org