Dancing up a storm can improve the symptoms of mild mental health problems in teenage girls, researchers say.

Swedish scientists found girls enrolled in a couple of dancing lessons each week had better mental health ratings than those who didn't take classes.

Improvements were long-term, lasting months after classes had wrapped up, according to the report published in the journal Archives of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

"Dance is a well-established and popular form of physical activity, particularly for young women," the researchers wrote.


"It can provide a supportive environment and an opportunity to enhance low body attitudes and physical self-perceptions."

A team of researchers, led by Anna Duberg from the Centre for Health Care Scientists, studied 112 girls aged between 13 and 18 who had "internalising problems" like depression, low-self worth or persistent feelings of tiredness.

Half of the girls were randomly assigned to take part in a 75-minute dance class, twice a week for eight months. They did this for two years of the three year study, Medical Daily reported. The girls mental health was not discussed but they were asked to rate their own internal health at the beginning of the trial, then three times over the course of the study.

Results showed mental health improved significantly over the trial compared to the girls in the control group. Researchers suggest this might be because the classes were enjoyable, not demeaning, encouraged a sense of ownership and offered a social outlet.

"This study points out the role of joyful social physical activity in influencing health," the researchers say.

- www.nzherald.co.nz