We’ve known for a long time that physical fitness and mental health are intrinsically linked. Exercising releases endorphins and can have a beneficial effect on your mood and mental wellbeing. But you don’t need to hit the gym every day or run a marathon, especially if you’re already suffering from anxiety and find the idea of a tough workout with strangers intimidating. In fact, recent research points to “exergames” as the best form of exercise for anxiety.
Exergames or “exercise games” is just pop-science jargon for video games that encourage physical activity (and phrase that’s trying a little too hard to be trendy). This includes games like Wii Sports, where you pretend to play tennis and golf using a motion controller, and more intense programs like Zumba R, which is more similar to an interactive exercise video. A new study in the Games for Health Journal demonstrates that Zumba R can reduce anxiety due to the mental focus required to learn the dance moves and the simple fact that dancing is a lot of fun!
The study goes into great detail—measuring a variety of physical responses and using technical scales for state anxiety and enjoyment—and indicates that dancing in particular has marked benefits for mental wellbeing. Zumba not only gets you to exercise, which can boost your endorphins and build cardio and core strength, but it also encourages dancers to let go of their need to control. This can be particularly useful for people suffering from anxiety. You can also exercise in the comfort of your own home, without going to the gym or interacting with strangers or instructors.
‘Dancercising’ isn’t a silver bullet for anxiety, and anyone with serious mental health concerns should consult their physician or get help from a mental health professional. But this could be one tool to help get everyone having fun at home! We’re also pretty confidant that Zumba is just one example of a dance-fitness program that can help us blow off some steam, reduce stress, and let loose.