Alison Howard represented FLexercise at a reception at the House of Commons on 28th June 2023 hosted by Kim Leadbetter MP. It was to launch a report on the Social Value of Movement and Dance produced by Movement and Dance Organisations who are members of the Sport + Recreation Alliance
Extracts from the Report
‘Strictly’ Head Judge Shirley Ballas who was there to support the message of the Report said:
“It’s not just the health and wellbeing we should focus on, but the ability it has to bring communities together. Dance events and festivals provide platforms for cultural exchange and celebration of heritage. They promote understanding and appreciation of different cultures, fostering social cohesion and unity.”
Reflecting on the report’s recommendations, Shirley highlighted:
“Emphasising dance as a tool for societal improvement is now imperative. Promoting the use of dance in schools, community centres and local classes can benefit our nation in so many ways.”
“Dance activities encourage creativity, self-expression and confidence, empowering individuals to realise their full potential. By recognising the profound benefits of dance and actively incorporating it into educational and community settings, individuals and society as a whole can reap the rewards of improved mental health, physical vitality and a stronger sense of unity.”
There is no doubt movement and dance is good for everyone, whatever their age, in terms of physical health. There is an improvement in muscle strength, endurance and balance; all important aspects of physical fitness. As an activity for the over 65s in particular it helps to keep people living independently with resultant economic benefits.
Delivered holistically and in the company of others, movement and dance provides an enjoyable activity which often becomes an important part of life. By taking part in movement and dance it is possible to escape the world for a while, forgetting everyday worries. It can give a new purpose to life, providing a different discipline and focus in which other ways of dealing with information gleaned from what we see, hear and feel are experienced. All of which helps to boost self-confidence and lift the mood.
Overall Health and Wellbeing
Movement and dance provides a positive impact on the physical aspects of health and of mental well-being. Feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem have been found to increase and are maintained by continued participation. Dance-based activity is shown to increase attendance and retention when compared to going to the gym. In particular, it is effective in retaining those who are using it as a therapeutic activity. The social aspect of movement and dance helps with mental health issues which are often associated with loneliness. Patients with Parkinson’s Disease can improve their gait and balance through the activity. Interaction with others, listening to music while processing physical movement are associated with protection against the onset of dementia. Sessions which take place in prisons as part of rehabilitation activity are proving to help build social relationships, affirming cooperation, trust and sensitivity. There is no doubt that very many people, whatever their background, feel much happier, more energetic and more relaxed when they have taken part in a movement and dance session. Physical activity is enjoyed rather than endured.
Social and community development
While there are still many barriers to overcome, progress is being made to ensure that movement and dance activity is more inclusive across the whole spectrum of disability/ability. Providing opportunities for contact with others promotes group cohesion and understanding, develops relationships and provides a sense of belonging
Dance also provides an exciting way of exploring the cultural heritage from which they emanate. It is an effective and very social way of experiencing difference.
The movement and dance opportunities which are there for young people to enjoy also provide transferable skills – listening, communication, focus, trust and teamwork – which are all beneficial when moving on from education to the field of work. Exercise, movement and dance help learning across other subjects, providing discipline and focus.
It is known that, for a variety of reasons, some teenage girls disengage from physical activity. Dance is the exception in that it keeps them interested and active. They enjoy rather endure it.
Dance based exercise matches the health-based outcomes of sport and physical activity. As an activity it is sociable, it provides the chance to learn new skills and techniques. It does an equal or better job of retaining participants compared to other disciplines, and is seen by its participants to be intrinsically valuable and enjoyable.
Dance has the power to reach and keep active some of the most inactive groups in society as well as preventing/mitigating against some of the profound challenges in our society.
The evidence suggests that dance has a similar impact as other sports in meeting recommended levels of physical activity, but potentially it goes further in terms of mental health, social impact and adherence to exercise. The challenge now is to prove and get accepted more widely its social value.
Photos: Sport + Recreation Alliance
Report overview: Alison Howard