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The Effectiveness of Dance Interventions on Physical Health Outcomes Compared to Other Forms of Physical Activity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis



Physical inactivity is one of the key global health challenges as it is associated with adverse effects related to ageing, weight control, physical function, longevity, and quality of life. Dancing is a form of physical activity associated with health benefits across the lifespan, even at amateur levels of participation. However, it is unclear whether dance interventions are equally as effective as other forms of physical activity.


The aim was to systematically review the literature on the effectiveness of structured dance interventions, in comparison to structured exercise programmes, on physical health outcome measures.


Seven databases were searched from earliest records to 4 August 2017. Studies investigating dance interventions lasting > 4 weeks that included physical health outcomes and had a structured exercise comparison group were included in the study. Screening and data extraction were performed by two reviewers, with all disagreements resolved by the primary author. Where appropriate, meta-analysis was performed or an effect size estimate generated.


Of 11,434 studies identified, 28 (total sample size 1276 participants) met the inclusion criteria. A variety of dance genres and structured exercise interventions were compared. Meta-analyses showed dance interventions significantly improved body composition, blood biomarkers, and musculoskeletal function. The effect of either intervention on cardiovascular function and self-perceived mobility was equivalent.


Undertaking structured dance of any genre is equally and occasionally more effective than other types of structured exercise for improving a range of health outcome measures. Health practitioners can recommend structured dance as a safe and effective exercise alternative.

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The authors thank the student members of Dance Research Collaborative who assisted in the early stages of the review and the Faculty of Health Sciences expert librarians who were consulted regarding the literature search strategy. This work was initially presented at the 26th Conference of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science held in Wanchai, Hong Kong in October 2016.


No funding was sought nor awarded for conducting and completing this meta-analysis and systematic literature review.

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AFY led the project, conceived the study idea and study design, performed the literature search, and led the screening, data extraction, quality assessment, data analysis and interpretation, writing and editing of the paper. SC contributed to the study design, screening, data extraction and interpretation, and quality assessment and completed all meta-analyses steps and analysis, along with results evaluation and write-up, and edited the paper. CEH contributed to the study design, screening, data extraction and interpretation, quality assessment, writing and editing of the paper, and provided project oversight and guidance. CC, EP, LLN, REW, BLT, AJV, and MAW all contributed to the screening, data extraction and interpretation, quality assessment, and writing and editing the paper. REM and YG contributed to the screening, data extraction, and quality assessment processes. All authors approved the final version.

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Correspondence to Alycia Fong Yan.

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Conflict of interest

Alycia Fong Yan, Stephen Cobley, Cliffton Chan, Evangelos Pappas, Leslie L. Nicholson, Rachel E. Ward, Roslyn E. Murdoch, Yu Gu, Bronwyn L. Trevor, Amy Jo Vassallo, Michael A. Wewege, and Claire E. Hiller declare they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

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Fong Yan, A., Cobley, S., Chan, C. et al. The Effectiveness of Dance Interventions on Physical Health Outcomes Compared to Other Forms of Physical Activity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med 48, 933–951 (2018).

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