Why Dance is the Best Exercise for Your Brain and Body

benefits of dance exercise fitness health mental health pregnancy prenatal exercise Jan 07, 2023
Man and woman dancing outside

by Stephanie Larson,

Dance is often thought of as a fun activity, but it can also be a highly effective form of exercise for both your brain and body. Let's explore some of the many benefits of dance and why it's the best exercise for your overall health.

Dance can be a great form of low-impact exercise. It's easy on your joints and can provide a full-body workout without putting too much strain on your body. This makes it an excellent option for people of all ages and fitness levels, including those who are pregnant or postpartum, and those who may have injuries or other physical limitations.

Dance is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise. It gets your heart rate up and can help to improve your cardiovascular health. By incorporating dance into your exercise routine, you can help to reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. If you’re pregnant, dancing gives a double benefit, by also improving the cardiovascular health of your baby. A study published in the journal Clinical Medicine Insights: Women's Health found that regular exercise during pregnancy was associated with improved cardiovascular fitness in both the mother and the baby. 

Dancing is great for your brain. Dance isn't just good for your physical health - it's also great for your brain. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that regular dance participation was associated with a 76% reduced risk of dementia in older adults. Dancing was the only physical activity associated with a lower risk of dementia. Another study published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement found that dance participation improved cognitive function and memory in older adults. Dancing also increases brain connectivity. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that dancing increased functional connectivity in the brain, particularly in the regions responsible for coordination, balance, and memory. 

Dancing reduces stress and improves mental health. When you dance you enter a state of 'flow' in which you're very present in the moment and not thinking about other things. A review of studies published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that dance participation was associated with reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Dancing can improve your mood by boosting your happy hormones, or endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that are produced by the body and act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. When you dance, your body releases endorphins, which can help to improve your mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Dancing increases flexibility, balance, and coordination. When you dance you increase and extend your range of motion, by reaching, bending, arching, and twisting. Your body responds by becoming more flexible. When your muscles are more flexible, they are better able to support and move your body. Dancing requires you to shift your weight and move your body in many different directions, and to move multiple parts of your body at the same time. This helps to improve both your balance and your coordination. 

Dancing increases strength, particularly in your core, legs, arms, and back. When you dance, you lift and move your limbs, and your own body weight, which can help to strengthen your muscles. It’s very effective for overall physical fitness.

Dancing Improves sleep. Moving while you're awake can help you rest and get quality sleep at night. When you activate both your brain and your body through dance, it follows that sleep comes more easily. Studies show that dance participation is associated with improved sleep quality. 

Dancing is for everyone. If you dance, you’re by definition a dancer! So don’t miss out on this fun and extremely beneficial form of exercise because you think it’s for others but not for you. Overall, the research shows that dancing can have a number of positive effects on your  brain and body, including improving cognitive function, increasing brain connectivity, reducing stress and improving mental health, and improving coordination and balance. So go ahead and when your favorite song comes on, let your body do what it wants to do—dance! 


Moyer C, Reoyo OR, May L. The Influence of Prenatal Exercise on Offspring Health: A Review. Clin Med Insights Womens Health. 2016 Oct 17;9:37-42. doi: 10.4137/CMWH.S34670. PMID: 27777506; PMCID: PMC5075987. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5075987/

Verghese, M.D. et al Leisure Activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly. N Engl J Med 2003; 348:2508-2516 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa022252 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022252 

Predovan D, Julien A, Esmail A, Bherer L. Effects of Dancing on Cognition in Healthy Older Adults: a Systematic Review. J Cogn Enhanc. 2019;3(2):161-167. doi: 10.1007/s41465-018-0103-2. Epub 2018 Oct 18. PMID: 32215357; PMCID: PMC7061925. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7061925/ 

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https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00566 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00566/full 

Serrano-Guzmán M et al Effects of a dance therapy programme on quality of life, sleep and blood pressure in middle-aged women: A randomised controlled trial, Medicina Clínica (English Edition),
Volume 147, Issue 8,2016,Pages 334-339,ISSN 2387-0206,

Stephanie Larson is a leading world expert on vertical birth and supporting birth through movement and instinct. She is the Founder and CEO of Dancing For Birth™. She calls for an end to forced lithotomy position, and for a worldwide shift to primal, powerful, euphoric birth.

What's Dancing For Birth?
  • An evidence-based childbirth method based on our principles of movement, gravity, and instinct.
  • An approved continuing education professional training and advanced certification for birth and wellness professionals 
  • A world-renowned weekly parent class for preconception through postpartum taught by certified instructors on six continents. It's a fun and effective fusion of Prenatal Fitness, Childbirth Education, and Celebration.


Dancing For Birth™ content is for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. In an emergency immediately call your midwife, doctor, or paramedics. Dancing For Birth, LLC, its members, officers, representatives, agents, authors, employees, volunteers, assigns or any third parties who contribute to the content or who are mentioned in the content are not responsible for errors or omissions, or for how you use the information. Use of this information is solely at your own risk.