November 10 2020

Exploring the impact of dance

Michela Vecchi, an Associate Professor of Economics at MDX, is leading a team of researchers to explore the potential effects of dance on wellbeing and on our professional life across cultures.

Benefits of exercise

The benefits of physical exercise on mental and physical health have been known since the ancient Greek and Roman times; often summarised by the motto ‘mens sana in corpore sano’, meaning “a healthy mind in a healthy body”.

Recent research across different disciplines is providing increasing evidence to suggest the presence of important connections between body and mind. In particular, keeping active and exercising is not only good for our physical health but has also important consequences on our mental health.

Michela dancing in her kitchen

Dance can boost wellbeing

Although any form of physical exercise has beneficial effects, dance gives an additional boost to our brain functions and our wellbeing.

Current studies, carried out by scholars across a diverse range of fields including psychology and neuroscience, are showing the effectiveness of dance in improving cognitive functions and wellbeing among a wide range of individuals and particularly those affected by dementia. Dance blends the positive effect of music, which stimulates the reward centre of the brain, with the motor, sensor and coordination regions of the brain. Dance involves memory, emotions and creativity, hence the secret of its success, is its complexity.

In recent years, various organisations, such as Dance Well and Aesop, have been organising dance sessions for elderly people and those suffering from Parkinson’s. These initiatives are growing and increasingly involving individuals of all ages and disadvantaged groups among society, such as refugees. Dance promotes connections among people and contributes to build a sense of community and inclusivity.  

Can dance improve our performance at work?

Economists have always recognised the positive relationship between cognitive skills and productivity and, more recently, wellbeing is often listed among the factors that can promote performance. Therefore, dance at work could improve our working life, the quality of our work and promote creativity and productivity. These are important assumptions that require new evidence.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has profoundly changed our working life. Those of us who are not key workers have spent significantly more time at home than before. Adjusting to the “new normal” often involves a new working routine, with keeping fit at home and maintaining our wellbeing becoming more important than ever.  The dance world has also had to quickly adjust to the changing environment and move to online delivery of classes on a much larger scale than in the past.

Be part of the research

In our study, my team and I explore the effects of dance on wellbeing and productivity during these challenging times. To this end, we are calling on amateur dancers who practice in their free time at home, novices, semi-professionals and professional dancers alike to complete our survey.

You can also complete the survey in another language other than English.

Michela stretches on her kitchen island with ballet point shoes

Blog written by Dr Michela Vecchi and Dr Patrick Elf

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