Belly dancing - Yuval Tebol - December 2011
A woman belly dances at the 2011 International Belly Dancing Festival in Eilat. Photo by Yuval Tebol
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Belly dancing traces back to ancient Egypt, where they were used as part of religious ceremonies. Historians posit that Napoleon’s soldiers, who were exposed to belly dancing while in Egypt, brought the idea back with them to the nightclubs of France. It seems, however, that the issue goes well beyond entertainment, into the realm of health.

A recent Clalit Health Services study under the direction of Dr. Clara Friedman at the Lichtenstein clinic in Kfar Saba, examined the effect of belly dancing on women’s health. The study included 129 participants, whose average age was 49, from belly dancing workshops in central Israel.

The final figures, published in an Israeli family medicine journal, revealed that belly dancing contributed to fewer visits to family doctors. Before they began attending the workshops, 53.6% of women visited a family doctor at least once every three months. However, after the workshops, the rate went down to 7.3%. Due to the workshops, most of the participants (92.7%) decreased their visits to once every half year.

At the end of the year-long workshop, where the women belly danced for two hours a week, their general health assessment rose by an average of 5.54 points to a total 9.09 points, on a scale of 1-10.

Furthermore, the women’s’ average body mass index (BMI) went down from 25.34 units, and approximately 70% of them described a decrease in their weight. According to the researchers, belly dancing is “a safe and pleasant form of physical exercise that has a positive effect on both physical and mental health.”