dancing

I’m a terrible dancer.

No, that was insulting to dancers to call my limb wriggling dancing. It’s more like a defiance of the laws of physics when I somehow manage to send every part of my body in a different direction at once without really ever moving away from the one spot I’ve carved out for myself. The uncoordinated flailing is a health hazard to myself and anyone in my proximity and also probably detrimental to the continued reputation of the song currently playing.

I’m not alone in this. It seems dancing is one of those things, like public speaking or using your phone as an actual phone, that people readily admit makes them self-conscious and gives them anxiety. Saying you’re a terrible dancer is almost a cliché at this point. One that continually self-reinforces to the point where it’s okay for someone to not dance.

It’s not okay to not dance.

Really! If the one thing holding you back from dancing your heart out is you being self-consious about it or about how poor of a dancer you are, then you have no excuse. Wiggle your body in whatever way you please. Sweat it out on a poorly ventilated dance floor. Jam out and show the world just how much you love your favorite song that “OMG THIS IS MY JAM PLAYING RIGHT NOW.”

And this is not just a “rah-rah,” self-improvement, “be the change you wish to see” kind of inspirational content to encourage you to dance like nobody’s watching. There are actually biological indicators that show that dancing leads to measurable positive health outcomes.

Dancing burns calories

This revelation isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire. Anyone who’s gone to a sweaty club and ruled the dance floor and then had to take approximately four showers to not be covered in everybody else’s body excretions know that dancing is a workout.

But a study from the University of Brighton shows that dancing can burn up to 300 calories every thirty minutes. That’s even more than swimming, biking, or even light jogging. The reason for this is that while most traditional forms of exercise require you to propel yourself in one direction and involves a lot of repeated motion. Dancing involves a lot of constant acceleration and deceleration of limbs and goes in all directions equally, burning tons of calories in the process.

That’s a long way of saying the directionless thrashing you and I may consider dancing is actually an efficient workout. What?!

Dancing improves your mood

A study out of South Korea showed that various forms of aerobic exercise, including dancing, were linked to higher indicators of mental well-being than other forms of exercising (and presumably, you know, just not exercising). That includes having more energy throughout the day, a better mood, and less stress.

No word on how much alcohol participants in the study were allowed to consume in each activity.

Dancing improves your brain

Wait, didn’t we just cover this? Actually no. We’re not talking about mental health anymore, this one is about the physical, gray, goopy stuff that is your actual brain. As you age, the connective tissue in your brain, the white matter, tends to break down. It’s all part of the natural aging process, but that breakdown does lead to things like taking longer to process thoughts and having a more difficult time retaining short-term memories.

A study in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience has shown that dancing can help slow that breakdown. Dancing will literally prevent aging!

Dancing helps with social connection

When you’ve lived in a cave for as long as I have, you sometimes forget that occasional social interaction is actually something that most humans find necessary to survive. Watching Netflix does not count, even if the people being portrayed are technically humans.

According to a study by the University of Oxford, dancing with a stranger can provide your brain the same stimuli as speaking with that person and finding commonalities and shared experiences. All without actually having to say a word to the other person.

The study also noted the prevalence of touching in dancing and said that that also helps. The study’s authors hypothesize that because touch is one of the first senses in infancy we use to develop connections, that continues to hold a powerful sway on our mental well-being and interpersonal connections even as we grow older.


There are so many benefits to dancing. Yet the one thing that holds most of us back is being self-concious about it. Don’t be. I’m a terrible dancer. You’re a terrible dancer. And good dancers aren’t judging either of us. So dance at home, dance in the streets, dance at a concert, dance alone, dance with somebody. You’ll be a happier, healthier person for it. I promise.

And if I’m wrong, the anti-social cave isn’t going anywhere.


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