But how is it that such a simple physical act has the ability to lift the spirits? The reasons, say dance psychologist Dr Peter Lovatt of the University of Hertfordshire, are four-fold. “Dancing stimulates us physically and emotionally while there are also cognitive and social elements to it,” he explains.
“You appear to get a much bigger release of endorphins when you dance than during other forms of exercise; it also connects with the emotional centres in the brain. For many people, dancing prompts an emotional release – often that’s uncomplicated happiness, while for some it can make them cry. It’s cathartic – a letting go of pent-up emotions.”
Experiments have proved the cognitive benefits of dancing. University researchers at York and Sheffield took a group of people and sent each of them into a lab where music was played for five minutes. Each had to choose from three options: to sit and listen quietly to the music, to cycle on an exercise bike while they listened or to get up and dance. All were given cognitive tasks to perform before and after.