Is Belly dance the answer to fibromyalgia pain? New scientific study.

Always love to keep you up with the latest belly dance related scientific research!!

This latest study comes from Brazil where researchers from the Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo studied 80 women with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a disorder where the suffer experiences widespread pain in their muscle and connective tissue, it is often accompanied by issues with depression, anxiety and other stress disorders.

What did they test?

Patients between 18 to 65 years were randomly allocated to a dance group (n=40; mean age= 49.5 years) and control group (n=40; mean age= 49.1 years). Patients in the dance group underwent 16 weeks of belly dance twice a week, while the patients in the control group remained on a waiting list. The patients were evaluated with regard to pain, function, quality of life, depression, anxiety and self-image. Evaluations were carried out at baseline, 16 weeks and 32 weeks by a masked assessor.

What did they find?

The dance group achieved statistically significant improvements for pain, six-minute walk test , Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, self image,  emotional aspects and mental health.

What does it mean?

In a nutshell

“Belly dance leads to improvement in pain, sleep pattern, functional capacity and self-image in patients with fibromyalgia. [It is] a safe, effective therapeutic strategy for women with fibromyalgia.”

Photo by Claire Collins

My take

What I find particularly interesting is that these findings tie in nicely to other recent research I have written about previously on this blog such as the work by Danielle Camilleri from the University of New England that found Belly dance significantly improves one’s body appreciation and image. Personally I am willing to bet that it is not just the benefits of movement and exercise that is the cause for these great results. I bet a dance style like ballet would not produce as significant results in improving a woman’s body image.

Belly dance helps you embrace your curves and quirks, you can be any height, weight or age and still look and feel fabulous. It’s not something you grow out of; you can keep dancing as long as you want to. It’s not like being a female newsreader, where you hit 40 and you are shown the door. You are not suddenly going to be kicked out of class because you had a birthday!!! Regardless of the age you find belly dance I think this is one of the reasons we love it so much, you are allowed to be whoever you happen to be.

Do you have any stories of how belly dance has helped you? Please comment below.

Baptista, A., Villela, A., Jones, A., Natour, J.  2012, Effectiveness of dance in patients with fibromyalgia: a randomized, single-blind, controlled study. Clin Exp Rheumatol. Epub ahead of print Sept 28.

Healio 2012

Love Belly Dance? 2 ways to prove it!

After the wonderful results of Danielle’s University backed study on Belly Dance and Body Image, it seems that we have a new crop of research being done on this ancient art form.

Jade Belly Dance members on couch

Belly Dancers come in all shapes and sizes (and ages!)

For years people have said belly dance is good for this and good for that. If we all keep participating and encouraging researchers then we can prove it! Could you imagine a world where belly dance is a medically prescribed therapy for women with body image issues and for birth preparation??? A world where Belly dance is taken seriously and everyone knows its not just about shimmies and strategically placed sequins? I think it would be a much better place. The 2 ways we can help this manifest this is to help these researchers with their work. If you are or have been a belly dancer please join in on these surveys.

1) URGENT SURVEY – Aussie’s needed to fill out this week!

The first one is being run by Emily, an honours year psychology student at Flinders University. She is a belly dancer from Adelaide (that’s in South Australia, for overseas readers) that is  learning both Tribal and Traditional Belly. The survey is entirely confidential, anonymous and voluntary. It doesn’t take long to fill out the short online multiple choice survey about body image. She has decided at this point to limit the entries to Australian Dancers only – so overseas readers are off the hook!
This is the link

2) Bellydance Health Benefits Survey – for dancers the world over

This one is being run by Kerry Stewart in association with the Sydney Middle Eastern Dance Festival. Again it is all confidential and for statistical purposes only. It takes about 10mins to fill out. The deadline on this is November, while the results are set to be published by the festival in 2013. (But why wait? Fill it out now and its done) or via the Sydney Middle Eastern dance festival site

Kerry Stewart can be contacted via

Gorgeous readers from across the seas, are there any online studies you know of being run? Surely its not only the Aussie woman that are getting curious about just how great belly dance is. If you have know of a study please comment below with a link. Are there any studies that have already been completed that you know of? It would be awesome if you could share the details below.

It’s official! Belly Dance improves body image!

Last year, Danielle Camilleri from the University of New England conducted a survey investigating the relationships between belly dancing, body appreciation and well-being as a part of her honours thesis in psychology. And now the results are in!

As anyone that writes about belly dance is probably aware – there is so little hard evidence to back up our claims to how great our dance is for the individual.

Jade Mirage's Ashwara

Ashwara proving you can be stunning at any age!

From discussions and observations with my friends, colleges and students over the years, it was clear to me that belly dance did wonders for a women in terms of her self-esteem, her acceptance of her body and reproductive health. (Sorry guys – I haven’t had enough men in my classes to have formed any opinions about how it impacts on male dancers). But was I operating from an inherently biased position? Was I seeing what I wanted to see?

Apparently not! YAY!!

Danielle collected data from 413 amateur Australian belly dancers aged 18-67 years old via an anonymous online survey. The survey included measures of belly dance experience, body appreciation and four indicators of well-being: life satisfaction, subjective happiness, the presence of life meaning and the search for life meaning.

“Results indicated that belly dance experience was significantly related to body appreciation, (i.e. that the longer women had been belly dancing, the greater their appreciation for their body, regardless of their shape and size).”

Well this certainly was true for me. The longer I danced, the more I realised I was beautiful. I really hadn’t known this at all. When I first started belly dance I could not do it facing the studio mirrors. I was so distressed to see myself reflected in them. I felt I was too tall, with bits that were too small and other bits that were too big – my body appreciation was pretty damn low. My very first teacher, Karen Tollan (who will always be close to my heart for her fabulous insight), recognised my distress and turned the class around so I didn’t have to face the dreaded mirrors! If she hadn’t done that one simple thing 13years ago – I probably would never have danced again. (In future blogs I will tell you more about my unlikely dance journey and how I have overcome some of the challenges that a seriously shy, potential dancer faces – follow my blog either by email see follow button on right or as a wordpress user).

Jade Belly Dance tribal

Can you believe some of these lovely ladies were hesitant about showing their tummies?? But they got over it and did a stellar performance.

It also seems to be true for my students. Usually their first performances involve them trying their best to find clothing that will cover all of their perceived faulty bits. Curiously, it is some of the best looking women (from a conventional media stereotype perspective) that panic the most. The longer they associate with belly dancers the bolder they seem to get. They seem to forget to hate their stomachs, arms, hips, breasts or whatever and start looking for ways to enhance their looks, love their bodies and make the most of what they have. When you go to belly dance events, one is inundated with women of different shapes and sizes looking glorious and I believe that may be one of the reasons belly dance improves our body appreciation. Once you see a woman look fabulous on stage and then realise that she isn’t super thin or that she has a stretch mark on her stomach, it helps you realise that you don’t have to ‘perfect’ to shine. It is your uniqueness that makes you special.

OK, back to research –

“Body appreciation was also significantly associated with well-being (i.e. indicating that the greater a woman’s appreciation for her body, the greater her self-reported level of well-being).”

“although my research did not find a direct positive relationship between belly dancing and well-being, it seems belly dancing has great potential in increasing the well-being of women, through its effect on increasing women’s body appreciation, regardless of weight or body shape.”

So what does this mean? Here’s my spin on things – Belly dance definitely has a positive impact on a dancers body appreciation and the more you appreciate your body the more likely you are to experience feelings of well being and happiness. If you can wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and are happy with what you see – it’s not a bad start to the day!

Belly dance is not some panacea for all your troubles however and it won’t stop you having bad days (sigh, I wish!). It will however help you accept and love your body more and this in turn seems to build resilience that does impact on your general well-being.

I do wonder if these findings would apply to other dance styles. I think that it probably doesn’t. 18 months ago, when I participated in a series of kick arse Bollywood workshops with Ramona Lobo (choreographer for the Australian version of so you think you can dance), we were trying to get a bit of a costume together and I happened to own several velvet embossed Indian choli tops that I offered the group. It was a part of the Utopian Dream dance festival where dancers from many genres got together for some high level training. I was stunned that some of these gorgeous multi-talented women went into a panic over showing their stomachs in performance!!! Here I was, among some of the best and brightest dancers in the country – fit, young, strong dancers – and they were bigger chickens than my beginner belly dancers!


Myself and Kristy Pursch (awesome local swing dancer) and Ramona Lobo chillin’ Utopian Dream Festival 2011.

Also for consideration is the fact that the research was only of Australian belly dancers. It is possible that Aussies foster a different kind of learning environment that facilitates better body appreciation but from my travels I think not. There have been a few exceptions over time but overall most dancers and teachers are overwhelmingly encouraging of women and their bodies whatever their nationality.

Physical well-being and a myriad of other aspects that belly dance could impact upon in a positive way were not assessed in this research. It would be too big a study to try to incorporate everything, so that means there are many other great findings yet to be proven. I was happy to support Danielle in her attempts to contact as many dancers as possible for her research and am happy to do so for any other academic that needs contacts. Please contact

I will leave you with this little post script :-

P.S. Keep dancing… and most importantly, make sure you appreciate your belly dancing body, regardless of your age, your weight or your body shape… there is now empirical evidence suggesting that it really is good for you!!  Kindest regards,
Danielle Camilleri xxx

How about you? Have you stumbled across any great research related to dance?

What benefits have you experienced from Belly dance?

Please comment below..

Next Newer Entries

Follow Jade Belly Dance on
%d bloggers like this: