There are people who love exercise. Those who plan their next run while they are still finishing the current one, who live in sports gear and who are way too excited about fitness… And then there is the rest of us! We would all like to do more exercise but, frankly, it can be boring, not to mention tiring, inconvenient and – mostly – requires either staying outdoors or purchasing a gym subscription.

But what if there was a sport that was fun, high intensity and worked out your whole body, and that could burn off as many calories in an hour as ice- or roller-skating, high-intensity rowing, or running at a sprint – what would you say then?

Welcome to Cardio Drumming

Let us examine the modern marvel that is cardio drumming. It is a relatively new sport that started out niche and has moved into the mainstream.

But before it found the mainstream, it went into the already exciting world of hardcore rock, finding fans amongst drummers who sometimes use the practise as a warm up before gigs and concerts. A more detailed and layman description of exercise drumming follows below, but let us take a moment to explore the extremes of this novel pastime.

Studies in Biomechanics, Energy burn and Neurophysiology

If you attend many concerts and pay attention to the drummer, you will often see sweat pouring off them, muscles rippling in their arms, legs and backs, and at the end of the session they will often be absolutely exhausted after an hour and a half or so. You may occasionally wonder how much energy is expended during a concert and wonder if anyone has actually measured how many calories are burned during such a session.

Well, yes, they have, and not just on one drummer but on several! Dr Nadia Azar is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Windsor in Canada, with an interest in occupational biomechanics and neurophysiology – both of which meet smack in the middle of another of her passions: music.

Dr Azar is currently looking into the physical expertise acquired by drummers with years of playing, the energy expended by the activity and also into any issues that might be caused by the rigors of strenuous drumming as a career. She undertook this study to examine the calorific burn of intense drumming, with help from Brann Dailor of Mastodon, Tim Alexander of Primus, drum specialists Vater Percussion, and entertainment agency Coalition Music.

For two concerts, Dailor wore special armbands that supplied Azar with the data she needed: on both occasions, the same 78-minute set list was performed with remarkably consistent results: a calorific burn of 12 or 13 calories per minute for a total calorie burn rate of around 670 calories per hour.

Brann Dailor drumming

This study is still in the data-gathering stage, but it is already clear that drumming is brilliant exercise, working out the whole body and raising heartbeat and breathing rates: perfect cardio-based exercise. It is no surprise that a new trend is sweeping the globe that is based on this perfect combination of cardio and resistance training: it is, as mentioned above, cardio drumming.

What is Cardio Drumming?

Cardio drumming is, at its core, high-intensity drumming, that incorporates sufficient movement to be a whole body workout while remaining fun enough for anyone to do with no training and only the most basic equipment.

Where Does it Come From?

Cardio drumming was inspired by the Japanese drums called Taiko. Dr Michelle Unrau, was travelling and saw the range of movements performed by Japanese drummers, and saw how she could combine these with traditional aerobic exercises to create a fantastic cardio workout.

What Drums to Use

Oddly enough, you do not need any drums at all! Cardio drumming uses stability or exercise balls. All the equipment you need is a yoga ball, preferably a 65cm one, a pair of drumsticks (you can use your hands, but they might get sore after just a few minutes ) and something that will hold your ball still and stop it from rolling away. In short, with just a tiny investment – if even that is needed, many people have buckets, large balls and soft sticks that can be substituted – you can be ready to begin in minutes.

What demographic is it for?

Anyone and everyone can try cardio drumming. It is a wonderful, generationally inclusive sport, and even those with limited mobility can join in.

For older folk, classes can use slightly slower music and softer sticks, with frequent pauses or sit down breaks. Geriatric bodies may be frail when compared to youth, but exercise helps everyone, no matter what age they are. Residential homes, community centres and similar venues can put on half-hour cardio drumming sessions for older residents to enjoy: boosting their energy and their cognitive abilities all in one.

Schoolchildren can burn off their pent up energy by pounding away on the balls to their favourite pop songs. Not only is cardio drumming a form of exercise that can be done in a relatively small space, but it is so much fun that the children will not even realise that they are getting their daily mandated hour of exercise! Children who are well exercised enjoy greater self-esteem, eat and sleep better, and, frustrations all burned off, even concentrate better in class.

People with disabilities and those with mobility issues can also enjoy drumming exercise. All that’s needed to get started is to be able to hold the sticks and hit the drums – no one will notice a missed beat, or the need to sit out for a moment or two. NB: of course, check with a doctor before doing any new exercise and make sure that they will not exacerbate issues.

What is Cardio Drumming? Just Hitting a Ball with Sticks?

Initially, yes, that is exactly what cardio drumming is! Once you are comfortable with hitting the ball – which does not take long! – you introduce more motion. This includes raising one arm while the other strikes the ball, lunging to one side or the other, even turning on the spot. You can sing along with the music – singing itself is excellent lung exercise – and introduce arm and leg weights to enhance your workout too.

More advanced classes can see the introduction of more complicated or energetic moves including squats and burpies to increasingly intense music. Workout routines often begin, at this stage, to introduce more complex moves like drumming on your neighbours’ balls in turn and making patterns of movement that look amazing and provide even more resistance to your heart and lungs.

The best thing is that cardio drumming really is a whole body workout! With the addition of squats, lunges, arm raises, bending and twisting to keep up with your advanced trainer, you will feel as though you have exercised later on!

Why is Cardio Drumming so effective?

Cardio drumming works well in two ways. Firstly, it is fun, so you forget that you are exercising and focus on getting the beat and the movements right – an hour can fly by and you will be drenched with sweat and enlivened, instead of clock-watching as you drag yourself onto the treadmill or spinning bike!

The second way it works is because it is an all over workout. Much like walking is great exercise, so too is drumming exercise! IN short, you workout your whole body, for longer than you might realise, and because you are focused and having fun, you work much harder than you otherwise would!

Are there other benefits to Drumming Exercise?

Drumming exercise

There are many benefits of drumming, not least of which is the exercise component! Having fun is something that all animals need – animals will often play, even in times of hardship – and we are no different. Having fun boosts our levels of feel-good hormones, dopamine and serotonin, that are responsible for us feeling happy.

Cardio drumming has been found to raise the heartbeat of its peak performers to 190 beats per minutes, boosting their metabolisms and getting their bodies working at peak. While you will not be able to reach those heights immediately, you will feel the benefits of the exercise from the first day, with an improved appetite for meals, reduced desire for snacking and deep restful sleep amongst other things.

Tribes are often depicted as relying on drums for celebrations, fun and rituals, and there is good reason for this. As humans, we are geared to respond to drumming – it stirs our blood, works up adrenaline and energises us. It is very primitive – and also amazing fun, offering a great escape from today’s perhaps slightly hypersensitive world! It also provides a sense of community, and something to bond over.

A final advantage is that it is good for hand-eye coordination and learning how to keep a beat. The skills learned during drumming exercise boost not only confidence but large and small muscle control too. This is why it can be helpful to young people, old people, disabled people and more – anyone who needs to assert greater control over their bodies will benefit from trying this exercise!

How Does a Cardio Drumming Session Play Out?

Each cardio drumming session will be slightly different, depending on your drumming exercise instructor, but most will broadly follow these lines:

Warm up – greetings, gentle stretches, moderate beat and quieter music, so you can stretch out, put your worries out of your mind and sink into the sessions.

Main body – a gradual increase in tempo and volume, which should mean that you feel your heart beginning to pound, sweat should begin to flow and a sense of exhilaration comes over you as the music beds into your soul and the serotonin and dopamine begin to flow.

Slow down – an easy wind down to cool off as you get tired and a little slower until the session comes to a natural and thrilling end. At which point – hit the showers!

How Can I Get Into Cardio Drumming?

Ask around at your local gym, check online in your area, and ask your friends group. As the sport is growing in success and interest, more and more venues are putting it on – and perhaps, if you cannot find a suitable venue close to your home, you could set up your own cardio drumming business and find yourself in the health and fitness business in no time!

Cardio drumming is one of the most fun ways to get a lot of calories burnt off in a relatively short time. It is also fairly low-risk, with little in the way of injury occurring, so, along with its very modest price tag, it is almost the perfect form of exercise for everyone.

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