Dance, Dance, Dance

Dance classes, which have long been seen as simply an extracurricular activity, may have an important influence on the mental health of teenage girls. According to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, teenage girls who took dance lessons reported reductions in their stress levels and psychosomatic symptoms – and these results stayed consistent even 20 months later.

In a randomized trial, girls from age 13 to 18 years with internalizing problems were enrolled in an 8-month-long dance intervention. According to self-reports, 91 percent of the teens reported improvements in their health status and deemed the dance class a positive experience.

One hundred and twelve Swedish girls participated in the study. They all had a history of visits to the school nurse for psychosomatic symptoms (e.g., pain in the head, stomach, neck) or persistent negative affect or tiredness. Half the girls attended twice-weekly 75-minute-long dance classes; the control group was given free movie passes during periodic interviews. The girls’ health problems were not addressed during the dance class.

The teens were interviewed on topics of health, emotional distress, psychosomatic symptoms, negative affect, depression, sleep, and more. Those in the dance group saw reductions in self-reported stress at 8-month and 12-month follow ups compared to those in the control group. Most teens (i.e., 87 percent) also reported good or very good health at the 12-month follow-up. At the 20-month follow-up, the intervention group still reported reductions, well after their dance lessons had ended.

To read more about this study, visit the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

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