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Dance Therapy: Improving Health Through Movement

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improve health through movement with dance therapy iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Dance can serve as a form of exercise or recreational activity. But some studies show that dance can even help treat mental conditions, overall health and some chronic illnesses.

Dance or movement therapy uses body motion to “further the emotional cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual,” the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) said.

Based on the belief that the body, mind and spirit all hold a connection, dance therapy suggests that movement can help treat a variety of health conditions. By moving one’s body in different ways, one is able to express one's emotions and connect with one's mind and spirit.

According to ADTA, dance can be used as a therapeutic technique and form of self-expression. Dance therapy is most often used in rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, mental health centers and other medical institutions.

Although dance therapy should not be used as a primary form of treatment for diseases, studies show the therapy can help improve some symptoms of chronic illnesses.

In a study of breast cancer survivors who took dance therapy classes for 12 weeks, results showed that those in the therapy had better range of motion in their shoulders than those who weren’t in the class, American Cancer Society said. The survivors taking dance therapy also showed higher self-esteem.

Dance therapy can serve as a complementary treatment to help reduce stress and other mental health issues of those suffering various chronic illnesses. It can also be beneficial to caregivers by improving stress levels through movement, American Cancer Society said. Some mental health conditions dance therapy can improve include anxiety, depression, stress and mood disorders

In addition to helping chronic illnesses, dance therapy can also be effective in improving self-esteem and self-awareness.

“Through dance, it is thought that people can identify and express their innermost emotions, bringing those feeling to the surface,” the American Cancer Society said. “Some people claim this can create a sense of renewal, unity and completeness.”

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