Contributed by: Julia Bissessar
From a young age, I have participated in both music and dance lessons and they’ve become a very large part of my life. They have shaped my academic career and furthered my interest in music and how it relates to the body and the mind. I can recall many times of my fingers finding the right keys on the piano without much thinking on my end, creating a calm yet hyper-focused state. I also found great relief and satisfaction after completing dance combinations in my ballet classes. From my own experiences, I value the effectiveness of music and movement and within my academics, I have found that both these things together can have some very positive outcomes for a variety of people.
I recall in one of my music cognition classes, we were shown a video of an elderly man with Parkinson’s who had trouble walking. However, once a piece of music began to play, he was able to walk with more ease and at a faster pace. This is what really piqued my interest in music cognition and finding more about how music has the capacity to facilitate movement. Of course, people of all ages with all abilities can benefit from music and movement. Many children’s programs combine music and movement to help children develop their locomotor skills (Díaz-Pérez et al.,2020). These exercises can also promote prosocial behaviour, as well as improve language development (Kirschner & Tomasello, 2010; Miezner, 2008; Trainor & Cirelli, 2015).
Adults can also benefit from music and movement. Studies show that regular movement to music can improve overall health and promote a positive affect (Alpert, 2011; Campion & Levita, 2014). I recall in one of my music cognition courses at school, we talked about line dancing and how many cultures practice this style of dance. Our professor even got the whole class together and taught us to dance together! Not only was this good exercise, but we all had a fun time doing so. Music and movement is also especially important for older adults. Many senior-living homes host music and movement activities for residents and increasingly employ certified music therapists to facilitate active music-making experiences. Music-making, instrument playing, and rhythmic and vocal improvisation facilitated regularly by certified music therapists significantly contributes to the mental and physical health of seniors by reducing mental stress while improving cognitive function (Hilliard, 2004). Combined with movement or dance, it has the potential to further physical benefits and overall quality of life.
I think even more now, music and movement are very important. With gyms reclosing and the weather turning, and most of us being stuck at home, there are limited ways for us to stay active. While listening to music and exercising both have positive effects on the body independent of each other, moving one’s body while listening or participating in music can have a greater impact on well-being. I strongly believe that dance or just even moving to music in some way should be adopted into everyday life.
Alpert, P. T. (2011). The health benefits of dance. Home Health Care Management and Practice. https://doi.org/10.1177/1084822310384689
Campion, M., & Levita, L. (2014). Enhancing positive affect and divergent thinking abilities: Play some music and dance. Journal of Positive Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2013.848376
Díaz-Pérez, A., Vicente-Nicolás, G., & Valero-García, A. V. (2020). Music, body movement, and dance intervention program for children with developmental coordination disorder. Psychology of Music. https://doi.org/10.1177/0305735620936353
Hilliard, R. E. (2004). A post-hoc analysis of music therapy services for residents in nursing homes receiving hospice care. Journal of Music Therapy, 41(4), 266–281.
Kirschner Sebastian, S., & Tomasello, M. (2010). Joint music making promotes prosocial behavior in 4-year-old children. Evolution and Human Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.04.004
Mizener, C. P. (2008). Enhancing Language Skills Through Music. General Music Today. https://doi.org/10.1177/1048371308316414
Trainor, L. J., & Cirelli, L. (2015). Rhythm and interpersonal synchrony in early social development. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.12649