A study by Australian researchers reveals that belly dancing improves overall body image for women.

Past studies have shown that street and modern dancers were in fact more confident about their bodies than exotic dancers. In the new study, the researchers aimed to find out if belly dancing, which is potentially sexually alluring, can also boost body image.

The study was conducted on 112 belly dancers from two dancing schools in Adelaide, Australia, and 101 undergraduate women who never tried this particular form of dance. All the participants were required to complete surveys rating their own bodies and how attractive they thought their bodies were in the eyes of men.

The findings revealed that belly dancers felt significantly better about their bodies than the participants who never belly-danced. Moreover, belly dancers also reported fewer self-objectifying thoughts and were less likely to care about what others might think of their bodies.

According to the researchers, the latest study sheds light on the fact that belly dancing can help women sense more ownership of their bodies. The activity can also help women be mentally and physically present "in the moment" and to gain more self-confidence.

"Belly dancing is an activity associated with positive body image, because participants tend to focus less on their external appearance, and more on the experience and what they are able to do with their bodies," said lead researcher Marika Tiggemann of Flinders University in Australia. "It allows women a rare, safe and creative opportunity for exploring and expressing their sensual and sexual selves."

Most women who belly dance do it more because it is fun and fulfilling rather than a sexy dance.

The findings are published in the journal Sex Roles.