February 20, 2024

Dance your way to better mental health

Resume: Structured dance programs are just as useful, and sometimes superior, to traditional physical activities for improving psychological and cognitive health. This systematic review and meta-analysis, involving a wide age range of participants from 7 to 85 years old, compared the effects of different dance genres with other exercises such as walking and strength training.

The findings indicate improvements in emotional well-being, depression, motivation and cognitive functions such as memory, across all age groups and even in individuals with chronic diseases. The study highlights the unique benefits of dance and suggests it is a viable and enjoyable alternative to conventional exercise for sustained physical activity and overall health improvement.

Key Facts:

  1. Structured dance interventions lasting at least six weeks can significantly improve psychological and cognitive outcomes and match or exceed other physical activities.
  2. The study covers a broad target group, including healthy individuals and people with chronic conditions, demonstrating the broad applicability of dance.
  3. Dance not only supports physical and cognitive health, but also provides social and psychological benefits, making it an engaging and sustainable form of exercise for diverse populations.

Source: University of Sydney

New research shows that performing structured dance of any genre is generally equivalent and sometimes more effective than other forms of physical activity interventions for improving a range of psychological and cognitive outcomes.

A structured dance program lasting at least six weeks can significantly improve psychological and cognitive health outcomes, comparable to other forms of structured exercise interventions, according to new research from Australian researchers.

Published in Sports medicine, the study is a large systematic review with meta-analyses examining the effect of dance on psychological and cognitive health. The multidisciplinary author team includes researchers from the University of Sydney, University of NSW, Macquarie University and Queensland University of Technology.

The studies in the review included participants across the lifespan (7-85 years), including people who are healthy and those with chronic illness, i.e. Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, cerebral palsy and fibromyalgia.

The dance interventions covered a wide range of genres, including theatrical dance, aerobic dance, traditional dance forms and social dance, and were compared to a number of physical activities, including team sports, martial arts, walking and strength training.

The study found that performing structured dance of any genre is generally equivalent to and sometimes more effective than other forms of physical activity interventions for improving a range of psychological and cognitive outcomes, including emotional well-being, depression, motivation, social cognition and some aspects. of memory.

Lead author Dr. Alycia Fong Yan from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health and Sydney Musculoskeletal Health said: “Preliminary evidence suggests that dance may be better than other physical activities for improving psychological well-being and cognitive capacity.

“These findings were seen not only in older adults, but also in younger populations and people with clinical conditions.

“Learning dance sequences can challenge cognition, partner or group dance can benefit social interactions, and the artistic aspect can improve psychological well-being.

“Adherence to physical activity is an ongoing challenge in clinical trials and even more so in the community. Dance can provide an enjoyable physical activity that is easier to maintain.

“Most people know that physical activity is beneficial to health compared to doing nothing, but they may not realize that dance can be an effective alternative to standard exercise such as running, going to the gym and other sports.”

This research forms the second part of Dr. Fong Yan’s widely cited systematic review examining the effect of dance on physical health outcome measures.

In contrast to the predominant social dance genres assessed for older adults, six of the seven studies in participants under 55 years of age examined the effects of dance genres that could be performed individually in a group setting, such as aerobic dance and modern dance, suggesting that dancing in itself improves psychological health and not just the social benefits of partnered dance genres.

The study also found that the current literature pool focuses on psychological outcomes among people aged 54 and younger, while there is more focus on cognitive capacity among people aged 55 and older. The effectiveness of dance interventions is most evident in the domains of self-efficacy, anxiety, depression, motivation and health-related quality of life, especially in older individuals.

Although there is considerably less evidence for people aged 16 and under, dance appears to be superior to other exercises in reducing the impact of somatization (the expression of psychological problems as physical symptoms).

Dr. Fong Yan added: “Dance has far-reaching health benefits. If you stick to a physical activity, the long-term physical health benefits will reduce the risk of health problems associated with sedentary behavior; the social connection and psychological effect of dance will alleviate symptoms of mental illness, and improvements in cognition can promote independence in older adults.

“Ultimately, this reduces the burden of these conditions on the healthcare sector. Structured dance can be considered an evidence-based alternative for individuals who may prefer it to more traditional forms of exercise.”

About this research news on mental health and cognition

Author: Alycia Fong Yan
Source: University of Sydney
Contact: Alycia Fong Yan – University of Sydney
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original research: Closed access.
“The Effectiveness of Dance Interventions on Psychological and Cognitive Health Outcomes Compared with Other Forms of Physical Activity: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis” by Alycia Fong Yan et al. Sports medicine


Abstract

The effectiveness of dance interventions on psychological and cognitive health outcomes compared to other forms of physical activity: a systematic review with meta-analysis

Background

Physical activity is known to improve psychological and cognitive outcomes. Learning dance sequences can challenge cognition, partner or group dance can benefit social interactions, and the artistic aspect can improve psychological well-being. Dance is an equally effective form of physical activity compared to other structured physical activities for improving physical health, but it is unclear how effective dance might be for psychological and cognitive outcomes.

Objectively

To systematically review the literature on the effectiveness of structured dance interventions, compared with structured exercise programs, on psychological and cognitive outcomes across the lifespan.

Methods

Eight databases were searched from earliest records through July 2022. Studies examining a dance intervention of ≥ 4 weeks, including psychological and/or cognitive health outcomes, and with a structured exercise comparison group were included. Screening and data extraction were performed at all stages by two independent reviewers. Any disagreements between reviewers were resolved by the primary author. Where necessary, a meta-analysis was performed or an effect size estimate generated.

Results

Of the 21,737 records identified, 27 studies met the inclusion criteria. The total sample size of the included studies was 1392 (944 women, 418 men, 30 unreported). Dance was as effective as other physical activity interventions in improving the quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease [mean difference 3.09; 95% confidence interval (CI) − 2.13 to 8.30; p = 0.25]reducing anxiety (standardized mean difference 2.26; 95% CI − 2.37 to 6.90; P= 0.34), and improvement in depressive symptoms (standardized mean difference 0.78; 95% CI − 0.92 to 2.48; P= 0.37). Preliminary evidence suggests that dance is superior to other physical activity interventions for improving motivation, aspects of memory and social cognition, and for reducing stress. Preliminary evidence showed that dance is inferior to other physical activity interventions for improving stress, self-efficacy, and language skills.

Conclusion

Engaging in structured dance of any genre is generally equally and sometimes more effective than other types of structured exercise for improving a range of psychological and cognitive outcomes.

Trial registration

PROSPERO: CRD42018099637.

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