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A New Study on African Drumming Proves Hand Drummers are Always Right (and Healthy)

We have seen tons of studies on the fitness aspect of drumming, most of which are focused on drum set drummers. More than likely, the obvious exertion seen in the faces of any hardcore drummer on a stage (determined, focused eyes, sweaty and breathing like they’ve been running a marathon) is the major reason for the focus on drumming as fitness and exercise. Plus, those drummers get the added benefit of music and rhythm without plugging into an iPod and wearing ear buds on a treadmill. The level of fitness required to drum at such a pace is pretty remarkable, and, for any new drummer, it is just like any other exercise: the more you drum, the better you get and the better the physical benefit. 

In 2008, a joint study by the University of Chichester and the University of Gloucester determined that when you drum on a drum set for an hour, you can burn 400-600 calories. Running burns similar (if not more) calories per hour, depending on the style of running and the runner's body weight. If running is exercise, then, by the laws of the Transitive Property of Equality (that’s your math reference for the week), drumming is exercise.

Even Djembe, African and/or Hand Drumming.

We know that some of you are rolling your eyes and shaking your heads at this conclusion. Mostly because we all know that hand drumming is exercise. Physical exercise. No matter if you’re drumming on a djembe, congas, bongos or a cajon. You are moving your body and your heart is beating faster – both are necessary for “exercise” status.

A quick check of online calorie burning calculators shows an hour of drumming (drum set, we assume) eliminates around 250-275 calories per hour, if you weigh 150 pounds. Since 2008 study says 400-600 calories per hour, it shouldn’t be that far off to assume those drummers were more of the Rock/Metal genre. Research from the Clem Burke Drumming Project seems to support this assumption, as well. So, drum set drumming is an effective form of exercise. But, how effective is hand drumming as exercise (defined as promoting cardiovascular health and calorie burning)?

A new study examines some of the benefits of African djembe drumming in terms of exercise and the benefit of lowering stress and anxiety levels. Through various measurements, the study determined that yes, djembe drumming is beneficial for lowering stress and anxiety and benefits the heart moderately. In other words, djembe drumming is good for your heart, but it doesn’t quite have the impact of thrash metal drumming or marathon running. So, it keeps your heart healthy, it can burn some calories, and African djembe drumming (perhaps most importantly) reduces your stress and anxiety levels. For people with disabilities, or who are just beginning to try out a new exercise program, hand drumming can be a great way to get into a fitness groove. It is fun, it is musical, it can be community-based or a solo endeavor, and, you get the benefit of rhythm. Plus, you’re officially a drummer. That’s not too shabby.

Playing your djembe can create a foundation for success in drumming, as you continue to master rudiments, rhythms and your own creative flair. When it comes to fitness, the “calorie factor” is usually one of the first thoughts we have about whether the exercise will be beneficial. But, imagine you pick up a drum and get so lost in the beat that in a few months, your improved physical, emotional and mental fitness is evident to you and everyone else around you. Just like that.

Undoubtedly, it seems that djembe, African and hand drumming is the perfect moderate exercise for the body, mind and soul. We can't promise you a new body or mind in 30 days, but, we can assure you that your health will improve when you drum. Aside from some soreness, no new drummer has said, "I feel so much worse after drumming." So, go pick up your djembe drum, give it a hug, and thank it for saving your life… because it is.

19th Sep 2014 Kristin Stancato

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