Sarah Kemp, Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager at AXA Health

The health benefits of dancing

That kitchen disco is more beneficial than you may think!

20 July 2023

A key part in keeping ourselves healthy and feeling good is staying active, but studies show that we’re so much more likely to stick to a form of exercise if we enjoy doing it1.

Finding the way you like to keep active the most may involve a bit of trial and error, but once you’ve got it, you’re likely to keep doing it. From shimmying round the kitchen while cooking up a meal, to getting the whole family up off the sofa to have a dance in front of the TV. Dancing is one of those things that makes us feel good – and it doesn’t have to be confined to the dance studio!

We know that exercise has a whole host of benefits for our physical and mental health, but seeing as we mostly dance to music, this form of exercise comes with a number of other benefits too, which we’ll come on to later.

We look at some of the key benefits we can get from dancing, whether that be just round the house or in a more structured setting, such as going to dance classes or following an online class at home.

Why is dancing good for us?

1. It supports our physical health

Dancing is one of those exercises that hits several different body systems at once. It gets our heart rate going, and works our cardiorespiratory system (heart and lungs, together). It helps to keep our muscles active, which not only maintains a good level of strength and endurance now but prevents us losing these as we get older.

It’s also a great activity to choose if you aren’t very fit to start with or have limited mobility. It’s gentle on our joints, great for flexibility, and it’s easy to adapt to our own capability.

Dance has been linked to improving a range of cognitive functions including memory, and the ability we have to multitask, and it can help older people’s brains form new interconnections and work more quickly2.

Not only that, but because we have to learn new steps and techniques and possibly work with a partner or group, dance presents challenges to the brain that help keep it healthy3

2. Mental wellbeing

The therapeutic nature of exercise is often forgotten. Beyond the many benefits to our physical health, it can also be fantastic for our overall mental health.

We all have a pea-sized gland inside our brains (called our pituitary gland), which releases endorphins when we exercise. These go all around your body to help you feel happier and more content, but also less stressed and less susceptible to feelings of physical discomfort or pain. By doing some exercise that we enjoy, we get a mood-enhancing boost afterwards!

Dancing helps us to achieve all these great benefits. It helps us to feel happier in the moment, more optimistic and less stressed. Even if it’s just a jig to some music in the kitchen when nobody is looking!

3. Benefits of the music

Music has a positive impact on the brain and its function, but it also has an effect on our bodies as we react to the beat of the music4. Discover more in our article on the benefits of music.

Most of us love listening to some music, however, music may well have some benefits to our mental and cognitive health. Some studies suggest that music could help us to learn more effectively, memorise and process simple tasks better, reduce the impact of anxiety and possibly even symptoms of depression5.

4. Dancing can be sociable

If you decide to go to a class rather than dancing at home, it can be a great way to meet new people and is also a great activity to do with loved ones and friends.

Dancing provides a great opportunity to be social at the same time. But beyond this, it helps us to feel good. And when we feel good about something or have a sense of achievement as a result, we often feel like sharing.

5. It’s fun

Getting moving is all about finding what you enjoy and what feels good. Dance is a great way to switch off from our daily lives and concentrate on the moves, the music and just having a good time.

Find some time to be active, do a dance in the house – even if it’s just by yourself! It’s a great thing to simply allow yourself to feel happy in the moment, connected and creative.

One of the Feelgood Health journeys we’ve followed is with professional dancer, Alex. We spoke to Alex to find out more about what dance means to him, how it has helped him to find his feelgood and also how moving can be such a powerful thing.

Alex describes dance as being “more than just about the movement and the activity for me, it’s actually become my personal bible for navigating and understanding who I really am as a person,” showing that how and why we get moving are so important for our mental and physical health and can have such positive impacts on how we feel. 


  1. What makes us stick to exercise? - NIH
  2. Dance and the brain - NIH
  3. Mental benefits of dance - WebMD
  4. How music affects our bodies – PPL PRS
  5. Music and Mental health - NIH

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