Dance helps adolescent girls alleviate stress

By Sheryl Kay • Published: March 13th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Dance is pleasurable, it’s hip, and it’s actually beneficial, not only for your physical health, but apparently for your mental well-being, too.

Research has long focused on the physical payback, equating dance with any form of solid exercise. But a study just published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine shows that dance helps to reduce stress as well, even in teenagers.

Investigators selected urban girls ages 13 to 18 who had exhibited previous issues with moderate depression, low self-worth, or constant feelings of exhaustion. None required dramatic psychiatric care but all were subject to life-disrupting episodes, such as psychosomatic illnesses and missing extended time from school.

The girls were randomly assigned to two groups. Fifty-nine of them received 75-minute dance classes twice a week for eight months during each of the first two years of the three-year study. The other 53 girls in the study did not attend the dance classes.

The participants who took dance classes were asked to rate their own health based on a five-point scale before the classes began, and then three more times during the study, with the last measurement coming eight months after the classes ended.

The results showed that the girls who took dance showed more improvement in their ratings of their own health even four to eight months after the classes ended when compared with the girls in the control group. And nine out of the 10 girls who took dance also said they enjoyed it.

Researchers acknowledged the study does not address exactly why the dance classes work the way they do to alleviate a teen’s stress level. But for teens who like to dance, a whirl across the dance floor may just lead to healthier living all around.