Hey Girls! Let's Dance

Dance intervention for teenage girls improved self image and perception of health

(RxWiki News) Teen girls that seem generally healthy may still struggle with their self-image. This struggle can sometimes lead to later health problems. But there's a possible solution: Just dance!

A recent study found that a dance program for girls with these issues was helpful. It improved how they perceived their own health.

These researchers concluded that a dance program designed for girls with internalizing problems can help improve the way they perceive their own health. This self-perception of health may help these girls avoid negative outcomes in physical and mental health later.

"Keep teen girls physically active."

The study, led by Anna Duberg, RPT, of the Center for Health Care Sciences in Orebro, Sweden, aimed to find out whether a specific dance program had an impact on how girls aged 13 to 18 saw their personal health. The girls involved in the study all had what medical professionals call "internalizing" problems.

These are psychological issues like feeling depressed, having low-esteem and having psychosomatic symptoms (physical issues brought on by or only perceived by your mind).

Often, individuals with internalizing problems are too "healthy" otherwise to receive medical or psychological care, but these issues can still grow into more serious physical or mental health problems later.

The purpose of testing this dance intervention was to determine whether it improved the way these girls perceived their own health since positive thoughts about your health can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The study involved 59 girls who were randomly assigned to the dance intervention group and 53 girls who were randomly assigned to a control group which did not participate in anything different during the 8-month study.

The girls in the dance group attended two dance classes a week for eight months. Each 75-minute class emphasized enjoying the movement of the class, not performance.

The researchers assessed the girls' self-rated health at the start of the study, immediately after the end of the dance program and then 4 months and a year after the end of the program. At the end of the dance intervention, the girls who had participated it in did have an increase in how they perceived their health.

Measured on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), the girls' average rating of their health moved from 3.32 before the dance intervention to 4.04 immediately afterward. The positive effects appeared to last: the average was 4.22 four months after the end of the dance intervention and 4.04 a year after it.

The control group, which had started with a higher average of 3.75 points of their self-rated health, only improved to 4.06 eight months after the start of the study.

Although the control group's 8-month score looks better than the average of the dancing girls, the actual change in improvement was much less. The dancing girls improved 0.58 points, and the control group of girls improved 0.28 points.

Overall, 91 percent of the girls (43 of them) who participated in the dance intervention rated it as a positive experience even though not all of them attended a majority of the sessions. Two-thirds (67 percent) of the girls attended at least half to all of the sessions.

The study was published November 12 in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The research was funded by the Orebro County County and the municipality of Orebro. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 10, 2012