Editors Note: This article is designed to be read start to finish the whole. way. through. 😉
We all love dancing! But, sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint why. Luckily, studies can tell us exactly why dance is the best hobby to have for your health, well-being, and community.
#1 – Dance Beats Brain Disease
Social dancing is the best activity for slowing down dementia – it was scientifically proven! In fact, dance is 76% effective at preventing dementia. That’s how powerful the rapid-fire decision makers in social dance – and especially for followers – is. I come from a family with significant dementia, and to me, it is very heartening that I’m choosing to spend my time in an activity that will help me live as long and well as possible.
#2 – Dance is Better Exercise than Most Other Sports
Did you know that dancing can burn up to 750 calories per hour? That’s a lot! No wonder back in my Salsa days I was so incredibly fit. Plus, you can get this bonus even if you are not skilled at dancing – as long as you do it vigorously. In comparison, another study noted that swimming vigorously will only burn around 300 calories.
#3 – Science Says Dancers are Happier and Smarter
You already know it can stop dementia – but the benefits don’t stop there. Our hobby is fantastic for our happiness and intelligence too! Studies from Sweden and England both have looked at the link between happiness and dance – and found promising results. In teen girls, self-perception drastically improved. In adults, they exhibited less rage, anger, and depression.
Of course, we already knew that. That feeling of getting on the floor and becoming one with our partners is nothing short of amazing. There’s nothing more powerful for our souls and spirits than the human to human connection that partner dancing brings.
#4 – Dancing Makes You Better in Bed
No surprise there! No wonder some cultures don’t consider you a “real man” unless you can dance. Studies show that how well you dance is linked to exactly how seductive you can be – for both men and women. Turns out that knowing how to use your hips properly is a great signifier of what kind of partner you will be. It’s no secret: most women know that their partner’s dance skills are a great indication of what they’ll be like in the bedroom.
#5 – Dancers are Better People
Did you know that dancers are statistically more likely to care about the world around them? For example, dancers are more likely to:
- Recycle, reduce and re-use to protect the planet;
- Shop ethically with a forward-thinking mind;
- Care about factory farming, vegetarianism, and veganism; and,
- Have a greater sense of social justice and emotional empathy
This is a big deal! We are part of a community who has a very strong sense of morality, care, and community. We care when people are struggling and down – and it appears we are some of the most likely people to come in and help each other up. Psychologically, our close connections to other people have imbued us with a strong sense of emotional empathy (no wonder there’s so many empaths in our communities!) Even governments have begun to acknowledge the important role social dancing plays in the fabric of the community. April Singleton from the Ministry of Social Welfare Services even noted that dance should be one of our rehabilitation programs after the Covid-19 quarantine period, just to help people learn how to be around each other again.
Dance does many great things for our world – with many promising new scientific studies every year. We are truly lucky to be part of such a wonderful community that does so much good for the world. Does this pique your interest? Keep reading for an in-depth review of why you should be very careful about trusting everything I’ve said.
#1 – Close to the Truth: Dance Beats Brain Disease
It’s true that social dancing has been studied and associated with reduced dementia. Out of this article’s list, the role of dance in slowing or preventing dementia is the closest one to the truth. But, there’s a couple things here:
Quality of Sources
I didn’t site the original study (red flag). If you follow the rabbit hole, the source I cite is reasonably OK (while it appears to be run by a single person, it is part of the larger Stanford.edu domain, and researching the actual author lends some credibility. However, it would have been optimum for me to cite an original study (follow the chain back to its origin) if I really wanted the best possible understanding of what I wrote. This is something to keep in mind with all my other “facts”, as well.
A Grain of Truth
If you read the original study, it says “Participation in leisure activities is associated with a reduced risk of dementia, even after adjustment for base-line cognitive status and after the exclusion of subjects with possible preclinical dementia. Controlled trials are needed to assess the protective effect of cognitive leisure activities on the risk of dementia.”
Based on this, my statement that “social dancing is the best activity for slowing down dementia – it was scientifically proven” is actually wrong. So is my statement that it is 76% effective at stopping dementia. While the article I cited mentions that dancing regularly leads to a 76% reduction in dementia, I could not find that in the publication that they link. Assuming that the Stanford author has the ability to properly interpret the data (which I do not; I’m not a scientist), he still only says that it was a reduction in dementia – not that it is a treatment that can effectively stop dementia. That is a critical (but easy to miss) difference.
It’s not all bad; dance is being further studied as a treatment for Alzheimers and other forms of dementia – with promising results. Many more studies have been done on this, and we are getting closer to actually understanding the link between dance, music, and dementia. But, that promising information does not mean that it has been anywhere close to “scientifically proven”.
#2 – Twisting the Facts: Dance as Superior Fitness
If you followed up on the links I posted, you may have caught on that the first “study” (a fitness blog) simply throws numbers out without any qualification – and that I used the highest calorie “dance” burn number: moshing. The social dances included capped out with Swing at around 550. The second link (from Harvard) is much more reliable. However, if you are paying attention, you’ll notice that their study looked at 30 minute intervals by body weight – not one hour. They are also categorized by body weight. The lowest bodyweight vigorous swimmer is around 300 calories per half hour; the most strenuous dancers of the same body weight capped out at under 200 (and that wasn’t even the partner dances studied).
Of course, that doesn’t mean that dance isn’t healthy. It is a form of physical fitness. But, it does highlight how careful we need to be when we are looking and comparing numbers.
#3 – Down the Rabbit Hole: Dancing Makes You Happy
First, did you notice that the “citation” was Elite Daily?
From Elite Daily, you can follow a rabbit hole to other articles. Many of these all seem to rely on each other’s pieces, but it isn’t too hard to dig and find two studies that these conclusions are based on in Sweden and England. It is, however, unclear if this was the London study referenced in the original article, since the citation in Elite Daily directs to a Psychology Today article.
The first was a group of girls in Sweden who already experienced mood issues, and it studied whether dance classes had any impact. The second was looking at emotional responses in English adults. Both studies had positive results. There is definite support for the idea that dancing can promote happiness and reduce anxiety.
So, what’s the problem?
If you read my paragraph, I’m using this information to justify why social dancing causes happiness. The studies aren’t about social dance; both were limited to small groups of people who did a solo dance class. Neither study has anything to do with the power of human connection making us happy; they’re about exercise and numerous other internal dynamics. My data (even when digging does find legitimate information) does not support the conclusions I make.
#4 – A Missing Link: Dance Makes You Better in Bed
There are studies that look at what kind of dancing makes you more attractive, and there are also studies that measure the attractiveness of a dancer in comparison to their sex hormones. But, the rest of the information is all anecdotal at best. Women surveyed did think that dancing was a better indication of a lover’s prowess, and it’s certainly not an unheard-of stereotype.
But remember: the title of this article is that “science shows” something. In this case, it does not show whether someone is a better lover because of their attractive dancing. For that, we only have anecdotal information – not scientific proof.
#5 – Complete Fabrication: Dancers are Better People
Did you notice that the broken link is for harvard.edu? It even directs to their university page. Definitely a reliable source for scientific information. What a shame that the link to the actual study is broken…
(If you haven’t guessed by now, there is no such study).
This entire section is completely made up. The working link to Facebook is to Danceplace’s April Fool’s joke (which got shared a lot by people who did not realize it was a joke). All it took was a few people who were “in on it” sharing the initial poster for it to take off. But, all you need to do is a quick Google search to realize that neither the Ministry nor the person are real.
There’s absolutely no “scientific” link between being better people and being dancers. But, if it’s something you wanted to believe, you probably “bought in” to my expertise and opinions. It feels good to feel good. It’s dangerously alluring.
This article is meant to illustrate how easy it is for information to appear credible. Some of you may have “caught on” somewhere along the line; others may have been blindsided when I started going through the reasons why my initial information was suspect.
If you are a frequent reader, you likely trust my voice – and my research. I’m also speaking to a view that you would likely want to believe, since you are a dancer. It’s also often *just* close enough to the truth that skimming the original publication would probably allow you to confirm my point.
This is why it’s so dangerous to share random articles on the internet without understanding what is behind them. Someone out there trusts you. When you share something you don’t understand, that person probably doesn’t realize it. They think you’re reliable – and that what you share is reliable.
Now, if your post is out of character, they are initially in disagreement with the premise, or they happen to know a lot about the subject, their alert may “ping”. But, if the inaccurate information that you share feeds in to what they are predisposed to think, it can engrain itself as a fact or proof.
“But they do so much bad shit anyway it doesn’t matter if this one thing isn’t true”
Oh, but it does. That one false thing you share can be a catalyst of doubt that undermines an otherwise true premise. For example, say you have a terrible dance instructor. His technique is wrong; he is teaching timing wrong – and you say that he’s also teaching leads to push a follow into dips because your friend Suzie said that one of his students did that to her once.
Except, he isn’t. His dips aren’t great, but he has never told anyone to push their partner into dips. In fact, he teaches that follows get to control their dips. Now you’ve weakened your position that this instructor knows nothing. People who like his teaching will use that as an example of how he is unfairly treated.
The reverse also holds true. If a great teacher makes a mistake in something, the worst thing you can do is try to justify why that thing is right. It undermines the idea that you are able to truly understand the situation, and that your information is accurate.
You are responsible for every piece of information you share. Demand as-perfect-as-possible accuracy. Otherwise, let it stay in the lost corners of the web. If you must share it because it has some ground-breaking nugget, explain why you’re sharing it in spite of the inaccuracy.
“But it FEELS right!”
Feeling is the worst possible way to determine something. It’s one of the reasons our court system tries so hard not to assess credibility by how well someone presents. Our gut feelings are incredibly deceptive and easy to fool. Attractiveness, speaking style, communication clarity, tone of voice, dress code… all of that reads as “trustworthy” or not.
For example, people with Aspergers can be incredibly intelligent and altruistic – but their speech patterns and how they present to you may seem totally untrustworthy. Someone who is great at science may really suck at communicating empathetically, leading to their very good data being thought of as “untrustworthy” simply because the words they used to describe the data ring as cold or devoid of humanity.
On the contrary, a good public speaker can sell you almost anything. That’s why good salespeople are so good at what they do, even if they aren’t the technical brain behind the project. (It’s also why when they say “yes we can!” to a client, a bunch of programmers in the back groan about how unreasonable the timeline is).
In short: your gut feelings are the most unreliable trier of fact in your arsenal when it comes to vetting the accuracy of shared information. It sucks, but it’s true.
Below is my personal checklist for when I do or don’t share something:
- Is the author reliable? What are their qualifications?
- Does the article skip certain pieces of verifiable information or paint an incomplete picture to support its point?
- If it is an opinion piece, is this made very clear so that it is not confused with an objective news source?
- Did the things mentioned actually happen as stated?
- Are their links and citations verifiable and reliable on close examination?
At the end of the day, sharing something “just for fun” may not hurt you. But, it does have the ability to hurt others if it’s wrong. There’s plenty of things you can post that aren’t wrong. Cat videos, funny memes, funny clips, TikTok dances… the list is pretty long. It’s also pretty mild to share satirical or funny takes on things that have happened.
But, my god: if you are going to share something, make sure the facts are true. Make sure you understand why they are true. All you need is a good writer who knows how to cherry-pick to lead you right down the garden path into a world of almost-truths.