Matthew Murphy

Do Dancers Have More Self-Control?

We're always thrilled when science confirms yet another benefit of dance. Now, the latest research from the University of Kansas is giving us one more reason to pat ourselves on the back: A surprising new study suggests that exercise may increase self-control—like the ability to make healthier food choices, avoid temptations (like that $200 pair of shoes you know you don't need) and make smarter life decisions.


While the research involved walkers and joggers, it easily translates to other types of physical activity. Yes, we mean dancing. According to the study, the more you exercise, the more self-control you have. That means dancers, whose daily grind involves class, rehearsals and cross-training, likely have a lot of self-control.

Still, it gets better: This positive side effect of exercise seemed to stick around for a month after research participants lessened their physical activity. For dancers, that means you can probably obsess less about what happens during breaks and layoffs. Sure, you may ease up on your diet and exercise regimen during time off, but the self-control gained from all those company classes and yoga sessions will stick with you.

While researchers aren't yet sure exactly why exercise increases self-control, this is just one more reason to keep pushing through your taxing rehearsals. You're becoming a better dancer, a healthier person and you're building up mental stamina to make wise choices in and outside of the studio. It's a win-win-win.

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5 Ways to Boost Your Stamina for Better Endurance

Sometimes you're thrown a big opportunity mid-season—but aren't always given all the rehearsal you need to fully prep for it. At Houston Ballet, for instance, there are often 12 casts of Sugar Plum, according to ballet master Amy Fote. That means some dancers might only get one full run before performing the role.

But not all of the preparation happens in the studio. For aerobically demanding choreography, dancers need to put in their own overtime to build the necessary stamina. Red flags for Fote are when footwork loses its precision and line, and movement looks less efficient and more labored—these are not necessarily signs of technical deficiencies, but often point to the need to increase cardiovascular fitness. "You have to do your homework and cross-train," she says.

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