Making the case for dance in health and wellbeing

Physical inactivity

  • Physical inactivity contributes to 1 in 10 deaths in the UK equal to smoking and costs the UK economy £7 billion a year. It is the fourth largest cause of disease and disability in the UK Public Health England’s, Everybody Active Everyday has set out a framework for action to get more people active.

Dance can engage people of all ages in physical activity and so can help improve health and wellbeing.

Gender inequality

  • In the UK women and girls are more inactive than their male counterparts at every age across the life course
    • Only 38% of girls achieved the recommended hour of physical activity each day compared with 63% for boys (Griffiths 2013)
    • 19% of men and 25% of women do less than 30 minutes a week (PHE 2014)

What can Dance do?

Dance is popular and effective at engaging women and girls in physical activity.

  • People Dancing’s surveys show 4.78 million people take part in dance each year in England and most of these are women and girls.
  • The Department for Culture Media and Sport Taking Part Survey 15/16  shows that 41% of girls aged 5 – 10 year old took part in dance outside of school compared to 18% being part in a sports club

Reducing inequalities

  • Dance can be effective at engaging disadvantaged communities.

E.g. Over the last five years the Dance Action Zone Leeds (DAZL) dance programme, commissioned by Leeds Public Health, has engaged over 8500 children from the most deprived areas in regular dance activity. 75% were girls and more than half were otherwise “inactive” beyond school.

Benefits of dance through the life course

  • Early Years: Dance improves cognitive and physical development and enhances social skills.
  • Children and young people: Dance increases cardiovascular fitness, can prevent or reduce obesity and improve self-esteem.
  • Adults: Dance can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and chronic heart disease and help maintain a healthy weight. It can also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Older People: Dance is a social activity that helps maintain cognitive function, reduces cardiovascular risk and risk of falls.

Dance in School 

Primary Dance Lesson © Andrew Ford

  • Dance is a compulsory part of the PE curriculum from Key Stage 1 to 3 (5-14 year olds).
  • The PE & Sport Premium provides at least £9,000 to each primary school (rising to around double this figure from September 2017) to support the delivery of high quality PE and Sport in School. This has already had a positive impact on dance. The 2015/16 report showed that dance was the most commonly cited new extra-curricular activity and the second most common new curricular activity, as a result of investment from the Premium.
  • Numbers of students taking dance qualifications at Key Stage 4 and 5 have reduced and Governors and School Leadership Teams should be supported and encouraged to reinstate and improve their dance provision, see Guidance for Governors and Trustees. At a time when the mental and physical health of teenagers is an area for concern, taking part in dance can provide mental and physical health benefits as well as a valuable area of study in itself.

Regular dance sessions can provide a way for communities to be active, have fun and engage socially with others.

Community dance performances bring people together to share their achievements and can provide a positive and celebrational focus for disadvantaged communities.

Dance can communicate health education messages in a lively interactive way.

Download the One-minute guide to dance and health and share with partners.