Why We're Adding More Mood-Boosting Dance To Our Movement Routines

mbg Senior Health Editor By Kristine Thomason
mbg Senior Health Editor
Kristine Thomason is the senior health editor at mindbodygreen.
Sporty Fitness Partners Laughing Together After Workout.

Graphic by mbg Creative x Santi Nuñez / Stocksy

In 2021, we're focusing on joy. After the year we've had, cultivating and celebrating small moments of happiness as they come has never felt more cathartic, life-affirming, and essential to lasting well-being. In the coming weeks, we're going to laugh, experience new things, and revamp stale aspects of daily life. Come back each day for a new "Resolution Joy" installment, where you'll find inspiration and expert-backed advice, free classes, and—dare we say?—fun activities.

Have you ever been bursting with so much happiness that you just start spontaneously dancing? (C'mon, it can't just be us.)

There's no denying that dance—whether you're waltzing with a loved one, jumping around to your favorite jams with a friend, or even trying out a new TikTok routine—can bring on all the good feels. 

Not only is it fun, but dance also packs some pretty impressive physical and mental well-being benefits. For starters, it's a fantastic workout that "combines cardiovascular, strength, balance, and flexibility components within the one activity," exercise physiologist Carly Ryan previously told mbg. 

As Eudene Harry, M.D., points out, "Exercise is one of the all-time best ways to manage stress. It increases endorphins, reduces inflammation, improves brain health, cardiovascular health, and definitely mood."

What's more: "When we move our bodies, different brain rhythms come alive," says Perpetua Neo, DClinPsy, a psychologist and executive coach. "For instance, the theta brain waves, which are known to help with learning and memory, creativity and healing." And dance, in particular, has been studied as a powerful tool for lowering anxiety, increasing self-esteem, and improving psychological well-being.

Not to mention, those benefits can potentially multiply when you bring friends and family into the mix. One smaller study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that among their 69 participants, those who participated in regular group fitness classes had less perceived stress and better physical, mental, and emotional quality of life—compared with solo exercise, or none at all.

Another study in Lancet Psychiatry assessed the mental health of 1.2 million adults, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They found—across age, gender, education status, and income—people who exercised had fewer negative mental health days than people who didn't. In particular, people who participated in group workouts and team sports had the fewest bad days of all.

"There's also a phenomenon called 'collective effervescence,'" says Neo. Think the feeling you get in a crowded stadium cheering your favorite sports team or the goose bumps you get at a concert when everyone in the audience starts singing along. "It's a strange and often delightful form of energy. In groups, that collective effervescence can come about, especially if there's great synergy."

As we try to infuse as much joy as possible into 2021, mbg is making dance a regular part of our movement routine—and we're calling up all our virtual workout buddies to join in the fun.

To get the dance party started, we're unlocking our Dance Workouts To Boost Your Mood mbg class, taught by legendary instructor Simone de la Rue, for the entire month of January. So grab your workout partners—in your bubble or over video chat—and enjoy the benefits of these energizing dance classes all month long.

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