Happy feet: Why dancing is a route to wellness

Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 10.28.23The season of the dance is upon us! On 1 May, children up and down the country will be getting themselves into a terrible tangle around the maypole. Grown men and women will be donning bells and hitting each other with sticks. In Rochester they’ll be dancing dressed as chimney sweeps. In Padstow, they’ll be skipping around a terrifying “obby oss”: a snapping model of a horse’s head with a cape attached for the purpose of “catching young maidens”.

Human beings have been dancing in celebration and supplication for centuries. The earliest records of dancing are found in Egypt and India at around 3300 BC. It’s likely, however, that we’ve been dancing since early man (or woman) did a victory jig having seen off a sabre-toothed tiger. Dancing is in our bones.

Like walking and staring at the sea, dancing works as a route to wellness because it feels so natural. It’s another activity that requires no special equipment. You don’t need to have a partner. You don’t even need to have music. The health benefits are well documented: increased aerobic fitness, better flexibility and improved muscle tone. There are psychological benefits too, including greater self-confidence and self-esteem. Dancing is good for your brain. It increases levels of serotonin, the happy hormone. It may also help to foster the development of new neural connections.

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