How Dance Helps Your Health

A Dancer's Testimony:

Travis Eisentraut is a member of the University of Florida's Dancin' Gators. In this interview, he discusses what dance does for his life.

Mental Health Benefits:

-A Way to Express Emotions

Emotions, whether they are feelings of sadness, happiness, love, anger or anything in between, have to be released in some way, says Universiity of Florida mental health counselor Josie Nicholson. Dance is a positive way to do that, she says.

-A Mood Lifter

Dance, like any exercise, triggers the brain to release chemicals such as serotonin, which improves mood, and endorphins, which decrease feelings of pain and increase feelings of well-being, Nicholson says.

-A Social Activity

Liz Zatz, a University of Florida mental health counseling master’s student, says, “What we know about mental health is that when people feel disconnected, oftentimes they may feel depressed, lonely, or possibly even suicidal."

Zatz says, "So when people engage in social hobbies, they are less likely to feel these negative emotions, and because they are connected to other people, they may feel a higher purpose.”

Physical Health Benefits:

Mike Wasik, clinical coordinator of Shands Fitness and Wellness Center and a certified athletic trainer, says dance is a unique sport because it allows you to work your body out in a variety of ways that will lead to better overall health.

Wasik also says that the fun appeal of dance encourages people to exercise. "If you want to exercise, you need to find what you enjoy doing," he says.

If you have a pre-existing injury or a bad back, knees or hips, Wasik suggests checking with your physician before engaging in dance as a precaution. You can find out if there are modifications that might be safer options for you.

-A Cardio Workout

Dance can be a good cardiovascular workout, Wasik says. This type of exercise can help your heart and lungs and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, he says.

-A Strengthening and Balancing Activity

Dance can strengthen your abs, back, hips and glutes, Wasik says.

"It's a functional, dynamic type of strengthening," he says.

While weight machines at the gym only work isolated muscle groups, dance works multiple muscle groups at the same time and improves your balance, he says."

-A Way to Increase Flexibility

Dance uses the whole body and stretches it in ways that increase flexibility, Wasik says.