Many studies over the years have suggested that participating in performing arts like dance or music is good for you. But how healthy is it? And how much time do you need to spend on stage or the dancefloor for the health effects to kick in? Researchers from Germany and the UK analyzed all the studies they could find on the topic and found that at least an hour of regular dancing each week could improve your health.
That art is good for you has been a popular message for years, and new studies pop up regularly to show the effect of music,singing, theatre or dance on physical, cognitive and mental health.
But what does “good for you” really mean? Not all of these studies have looked at the same things. The performing arts researchers behind this latest analysis, published in PLOS One, quickly discovered that when they tried to compare all the papers they found about the health effects of the arts. These papers all covered different forms of art, looked at different communities, varying hours of participation and a range of different health outcomes. To weed through the data, they systematically compared studies that measured similar types of outcomes.
After comparing hundreds of studies they found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the ones with the most physical activity had the most positive health outcomes out of a range of possible health aspects – things like heart rate, mental health, memory, endurance and many more. Several active forms of dance didn’t just have a positive effect on one area of health, but on three or four of them.
Drumming also showed a high number of health benefits, comparable to those of dance activities. It’s worth mentioning that those were based on studies of social drumming, so playing drums alone at home may not have the same outcomes.
Across the board, music and dance activities had different types of health outcomes, though. Making music mainly affected auditory function, the immune system, cognitive health, wellbeing and social functioning. Dance activities generally also scored high in those last three categories, as well as in body composition, mental health, physical fitness and physical function.
And it doesn’t take much effort to see a positive effect of the performing arts. One hour per week on a regular basis seemed to be enough to get the benefits of dancing and other activities.
The types of dancing that had multiple health benefits weren’t just the usual suspects like Zumba, which is already offered as exercise at many fitness centres, but also other forms of dancing like ballroom dancing or even social dancing. So once nightlife comes back, you could get away with thinking of a night out as “exercise”.