Experts say dancing can have positive impact on mental health

Oxford Academy of Dance Arts: Oxford, MS

Landon Prestwood
Oxford Stories

An Oxford dance studio owner says there is a direct connection between dancing and improved mental health, and health experts agree.

Lydia Siniard Foster, owner of Oxford Adcademy of Dance Arts, said dancing is changing the health of many Oxford residents. Foster said dancing provides a routine and allows participants to make new friends, two things that have led to improved mental health.

Foster isn’t the only one who sees the correlation. Angela Turner, a behavioral health nurse at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson, said dancing has many health benefits.

“Not only does it (dancing) act as a physical activity that strengthens your body’s most vital processes, like heart and lung function,” she said, “but it acts as a therapeutic expression for people suffering with many forms of anxiety and depression.”

Oxford Academy of Dance at the Gertrude C. Ford Center at the University of Mississippi

During physical activity, whether it’s running, dancing, or even walking, Turner said hormones called endorphins are released into your bloodstream. These have many positive benefits, such as improving your mood, lowering stress, and decreasing anxiety, helping facilitate your overall well being.

“I can’t say for sure that all people who dance have lower levels of anxiety,” Turner said, “but I can say that my patients, in particular, are eager to find remedies for their anxiety that aren’t prescription drugs. If there’s any correlation between a form of physical activity, such as dancing, and a healthier lifestyle, I always suggest it to my patients.”

The Better Health Channel, a government-led movement for a healthier lifestyles, reports that, “Dancing can be a way for people of all ages, shapes, and sizes to stay fit. It can also help improve your muscle tone, strength, and endurance.”

The BHC reports that dancing has a direct correlation with making new friends and improving social skills.

A Ballerina’s feet at the Academy of Dance Arts in Oxford.

Foster, an Atlanta native, studied English, theater and Italian at the University of Mississippi. She has been dancing since age 3. One of her first jobs was at a local Atlanta dance studio as a secretary. This allowed her to fall in love with dance.

While studying at UM, Foster created an intramural dance program in which students from all backgrounds could learn routines, practices, and ballet. Soon after graduation, the organization led to “Hinge,” an adult dance program she teaches in addition to ballet and yoga classes at the Oxford Academy of Dance Arts.

In college, Foster often told herself to “hang up her dancing shoes.” She thought dance was a hobby and not a field she could pursue as a career. Now she has 260 plus dancers in her studio.

Foster believes her dance studio has become an essential part of Oxford’s growing arts scene.

Owner of Oxford Academy of Dance Arts: Lydia Siniard Foster

“We aren’t in a metro city,” she said. “We aren’t close to a big city where we have, you know, the plethora of artistic opportunities or outlets, or even educators. So, I felt like Oxford was missing something like this. Yes, there were other dance studios here before mine, but my business model is a little different.”

Foster said she wants her dancers, of all ages, to have the same opportunities to dance that she had when she was a young dancer. She believes Oxford may be more artistically progressive than many other communities in the state.

“We have a good local school system, one of the best in the state, and many Oxford residents have graduated from Ole Miss,” she said. “I think this has led many people to open their own businesses or work for the university, and therefore, add to the artistic opportunity that Oxford has.”

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