Benefits Of Dance Therapy

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Dance therapy is a type of psychological therapy that uses dance movement and physical activity to help improve health. The history of dance as a healing art can be traced back to the 1940s when professional dance therapy concepts were first developed. But it wasn’t until the beginning of the 1990s, that it gained worldwide recognition as a psychotherapeutic tool.1 

In recent years, some studies have found that dance movement has proven some benefits to health, such as helping to reduce stress, improve cognition, increase confidence, and promote physical activity. This article will look into the benefits of dance therapy to improve health and overall well-being.

Physical benefits

Improved cardiovascular health

Some research studies assessing the effects of dance therapy on heart-related problems have reported its benefits in reducing blood pressure in people with hypertension. In one review, only five trials were assessed, however, the overall results indicated that the clients who used dance therapy had significantly lower blood pressure compared to those who didn’t. The results also suggested that dance therapy had a better effect on people of African origins than those from Europe or America.2

Enhanced flexibility and coordination

Dance therapy has been shown to improve posture. It does this by teaching you how to move flexibly and enhance your sense of poise. Some mental health professionals include shoulder positioning, posture, core lifting ability, back structure, and body extension as part of individualised therapy. This helps to improve flexibility and coordination through dancing.3

Strengthens muscles and bones

Dance therapy is known to be popular among older adults to help prevent falls. Dance helps to improve gait, balance, and muscle strength. Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury and death in older adults, which led to healthcare professionals exploring a possible connection between dance and fall prevention. The results noted that dance helped to improve balance, strengthen muscles and bones, and is deemed safe for the well-being of older adults.3

Psychological benefits

Stress reduction and relaxation

Dance therapy can cause some hormones, like endorphins and dopamine to be released during exercise. These hormones are often dubbed as the “feel-good” or “happy” hormones. This is because they are associated with an increase in joy, pleasure, and excitement. The body releases these hormones as they help to reduce stress, relieve pain, and improve overall mood.4

Boosts mood and self-esteem

Dance therapy sessions may involve playing music that is preferred by the individual. Music helps to improve mood; you may feel more connected to the music when dancing along to the beat of the song. Dance therapy provides you with a free space to express your emotions that may be difficult to communicate through verbal communication alone.

By dancing to different songs, you may find it easier to express how you feel, as dance helps you focus on your physical sensations and emotions, instead of maladaptive thoughts. In this way, dance therapy helps to improve your mood and alleviate your stress.5

Sessions can also be more structured, with your dance therapists teaching you different dance genres. This can help you learn to be more disciplined and stay focused during a dance to achieve your dance goals.

You may feel awkward at the start but as the sessions progress, you will notice a boost in your morale over time as you set goals, and work hard to achieve results.5 You do not need to have any previous experience in dance. These sessions offer you a non-judgemental environment for you to express yourself freely. 

Provides an outlet for self-expression

During the therapy session, you may be asked to focus on the sound of the music, the feeling of movement, and the beat of the songs. This is referred to as “entering the zone.” As you dance, you can feel connected to yourself which can be a form of meditation and self-expression.

This helps to develop self-awareness, promote emotional well-being, and reduce feelings of anxiety, fear, or depression.4,5 Your therapist will guide you throughout sessions and help you understand your feelings. They will listen and respect your privacy, as the utmost goal of these sessions is to provide you with a safe space to relax and express yourself freely.

Cognitive benefits

Stimulates brain function

Dance therapists have agreed that body language and movement can help a person physically demonstrate hidden feelings, traits, or thoughts. This suggests there is a mind-body connection with dance movement, so, when your body is moving, your brain function (mind) awakens and lets you express parts of yourself that may have been suppressed.6

Enhances memory and cognitive abilities

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that engagement in regular physical activity like dance is essential for healthy growth and development in children. This is because the growth and developmental stage in children is a time when negative social and psychological experiences can affect their cognitive development.1,6

The WHO has suggested that young people between the ages of 5 to 17 years should participate in on average 60 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous exercise. The exercise type should mostly include aerobic activity over 7 days, and high-intensity performances, such as strength exercises, for at least 3 days a week.

It has also been suggested that the time children spend participating in sedentary activities like television and computer screen time needs to be reduced. In addition to having physical benefits, dance movement therapy can also have cognitive benefits, as it involves the use of music which is known to help improve cognitive function and memory.6

Improves focus and concentration

Setting goals and achievements with your therapist can help you focus on the physical sensations and emotions around you instead of your thoughts. This gives clients the experience of fun, happiness, and joy that helps to improve focus and concentration.6

Social benefits

Encourages social interaction and communication

Dance therapy is usually held in groups of different people, who are also experiencing mental or physical health problems. It can help you make more social interactions and potentially meet new friends which can help you improve your communication skills.7

Fosters a sense of community and belonging

Dance therapy provides a means for self-expression for those who struggle with issues like social anxiety. You may benefit from these programmes, as they promote social activity in an environment where you can freely talk to others. This can help you meet people to build relationships that can develop into a community, giving you a sense of belonging.7

Dance therapists have suggested that dance therapy as non-verbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. Dance therapists might interpret a client’s physical expression as communication, meaning that movements might be a way of showing what you feel at a particular point in time.8

Therapeutic applications

Treatment of anxiety and depression

Dance therapy has long been used as part of treatment therapy for adults with depression. Studies have found that dance therapy was highly effective in treating symptoms of depression by offering a form of physical integration and hence. As dance therapy has been successful for adult patients, some therapists are looking into incorporating this as part of treatment plans for children, teenagers, or older adults.1

Management of chronic pain

Dance therapy is a healing art that involves a specialised movement programme that creates an emotional connection to music and movement. Throughout the session, movement by shoulder positioning, posture, core lifting ability, back structure, and body extension can help you practise flexibility, poise, and improvisation without specific rules on how to dance.9

Rehabilitation for physical injuries

Dance therapy is a stress-free exercise that promotes fitness and physical health. It improves endurance through the release of hormones that are connected with an increase in joy and excitement. This helps to reduce stress and improve reflection, which can in turn increase physical well-being and improve the recovery time of physical injuries.9


Dance therapy is a type of psychological therapeutic intervention that has been proven to help with the physical, cognitive, and social characteristics of a person. Various research studies have explored the benefits of dance therapy in the overall wellness of an individual. These studies have shown this form of therapy has benefits in psychological health, such as reducing symptoms of depression, and physical health, such as improving exercise capacity in people with high blood pressure and heart failure as well as chronic pain.

Dance therapy provides a multitude of benefits to mental and physical health. Studies have shown that it can improve an individual’s self-awareness and their emotional, social, and cognitive responses. Consult your healthcare provider and dance therapist before attending any sessions, they will provide you with further information to help you decide if this therapy is right for you.


  1. Koch SC, Riege RFF, Tisborn K, Biondo J, Martin L, Beelmann A. Effects of Dance Movement Therapy and Dance on Health-Related Psychological Outcomes. A Meta-Analysis Update. Front Psychol [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2024 Feb 22]; 10:1806. Available from:
  2. Aweto HA, Owoeye OBA, Akinbo SRA, Onabajo AA. Effects of dance movement therapy on selected cardiovascular parameters and estimated maximum oxygen consumption in hypertensive patients. Nig Q J Hosp Med. 2012; 22(2):125–9. Available from: 
  3. Hashimoto H, Takabatake S, Miyaguchi H, Nakanishi H, Naitou Y. Effects of dance on motor functions, cognitive functions, and mental symptoms of Parkinson’s disease: a quasi-randomized pilot trial. Complement Ther Med. 2015; 23(2):210–9. Available from: 
  4. Aithal S, Karkou V, Kuppusamy G, Mariswamy P. Backing the backbones—A feasibility study on the effectiveness of dance movement psychotherapy on parenting stress in caregivers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The Arts in Psychotherapy [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2024 Feb 22]; 64:69–76. Available from:
  5. Martin LAL, Koch SC, Hirjak D, Fuchs T. Overcoming Disembodiment: The Effect of Movement Therapy on Negative Symptoms in Schizophrenia-A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial. Front Psychol. 2016; 7:483. Available from: 
  6. Kattenstroth J-C, Kalisch T, Holt S, Tegenthoff M, Dinse HR. Six months of dance intervention enhances postural, sensorimotor, and cognitive performance in elderly without affecting cardio-respiratory functions. Front Aging Neurosci. 2013; 5:5. Available from: 
  7. Panagiotopoulou E. Dance therapy and the public school: The development of social and emotional skills of high school students in Greece. The Arts in Psychotherapy [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2024 Feb 22]; 59:25–33. Available from:
  8. Jeong Y-J, Hong S-C, Lee MS, Park M-C, Kim Y-K, Suh C-M. Dance movement therapy improves emotional responses and modulates neurohormones in adolescents with mild depression. Int J Neurosci. 2005; 115(12):1711–20. Available from: 
  9. Ho RTH, Fong TCT, Cheung IKM, Yip PSF, Luk M-Y. Effects of a Short-Term Dance Movement Therapy Program on Symptoms and Stress in Patients With Breast Cancer Undergoing Radiotherapy: A Randomized, Controlled, Single-Blind Trial. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2016; 51(5):824–31. Available from: 

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Omoteniola Olufon

MPharm, IP, University of Hertfordshire, England

Teni Olufon is a seasoned clinical pharmacist and independent prescriber with several years of clinical and management roles across diverse healthcare settings. With years of experience in patient and public health advocacy, she has since carved a niche for herself in the realm of contributing to writing evidence-based informations and policies to support patient care.

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