Dance therapy: How Moving to Music Boosts Mental Health

Written by: Kyle Riley, BSc (hons) Ex Sci
Therapy Co-Founder

In the ever-evolving field of therapy and movement, the integration of dance and rhythmical movement as a therapeutic tool is gaining recognition. The practice of moving our bodies to the rhythm of music is not only a joyous experience but also one that has profound effects on our mental health, and a cornerstone of our approach in our classes at Therapy Fitness.

The Emotional and Cognitive Benefits of Dance

  1. Mood Enhancement & Stress Reduction: Dancing stimulates the release of neurotransmitters such as endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. As well as lowering the stress hormone, cortisol. This can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, leaving you feeling happier and more relaxed.
  2. Social Connection: Moving in unison can create a feeling of synchrony that extends beyond the dance floor (or mat, or bike). When people move together to the same beat, they experience a sense of synchrony and shared purpose, which strengthens interpersonal connections and can lead to lasting friendships. This shared rhythm can enhance feelings of unity and reduce social barriers, leading to more cohesive and supportive communities.
  3. Increased Empathy and Cooperation: Participating in group dance activities can increase empathy among participants. Moving in harmony with others requires a level of attunement to movements and emotions. This shared experience promotes cooperation and can improve social harmony, making people more likely to help and support each other in other aspects of life.
  4. Cognitive Flexibility: Learning new dance moves challenges the brain, improving neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to form and reorganise synaptic connections. This can enhance memory, problem-solving skills, and overall cognitive function.
  5. Mindfulness and Presence: Dance requires focus and attention to the present moment, promoting mindfulness. This can help in reducing rumination and fostering a more positive mental state.

Dance Therapy: A Clinical Approach

Dance therapy, also known as dance/movement therapy (DMT), is a clinical practice that uses dance and movement to support mental and emotional well-being. It is grounded in the idea that body and mind are interconnected, and movement can be a powerful medium for expression and healing.

How Dance Therapy Works:

  • Non-Verbal Expression: For individuals who find it difficult to articulate their feelings verbally, dance provides a non-verbal outlet for expression.
  • Body Awareness: Through guided movement, individuals can develop a better understanding of their bodily sensations and emotional states.
  • Creative Exploration: Dance therapy encourages creativity, helping individuals explore different aspects of their personality and emotions in a safe and supportive environment.

How we use Collective Movement and Dance at Therapy

  1. Connect: In our Hot Pilates class, Connect Yang, we match exercises such as squats, crunches and other movements to the beat of the music, as well as moments of free movement/dance. This promotes the group to move in unison as well as tap into the same cognitive benefits found when learning a dance routine. Our yoga fusion class, Connect Yin also incorporates Yoga flows to the beat of the music turning your flow into rhythmical movement to bring you into your body and the present moment.
  2. Cycle: Our spin classes are like no other, ride to the rhythm of the beat in a dark room with optional choreography, its the ultimate euphoric lift where you can ‘dance like no one is watching’ to your favourite tunes!
  3. Mindful Movement: Our instructors support you in paying attention to how your body feels in each class. Helping you to notice the sensations, rhythms, and emotions that arise.
  4. Specialised Workshops: Join Emily at our upcoming dance empowerment workshop on Friday 21st June and tap into the power of Dance as Therapy.


The neuroscience of dance reveals a complex interplay between different brain regions, resulting in profound benefits for our mental health. By engaging in dance, we not only experience joy and freedom of movement but also enhance our mood, reduce stress, and improve cognitive functions. The benefits can be enhanced further by moving in unison with other people. From enhancing social bonds to increasing empathy, the act of moving together to a shared beat is a powerful tool for improving both mental and physical health and can be done through exercise and not necessarily having to ‘learn to dance’. 

So, lets move together, and let the music move you towards better mental health!

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