03 Jun What are the Health Benefits of Drumming?
When people contact us for drum lessons it’s fair to say that they’re not usually thinking of the specific health benefits of drumming. Drumming might be rewarding enough but there’s more going on health-wise than you might consider.
Physical Health Benefits of Drumming
Let’s start with the physical health benefits of drumming:
Can drumming be considered exercise?
Yes! As soon as you learn to drum, you’re exercising all four limbs. From the get-go both your upper and lower body is engaged in physical activity. You could even argue there’s more benefit to your upper body as opposed to, say, running. When running your lower limbs get most of the workout but in a drumming session all four limbs benefit.
Can drumming help lose weight?
Clem Burke, the drummer in Blondie, received an honorary doctorate from the University of Gloucestershire for his project that looked at both the physical and psychological effects of drumming. During his research he found when drumming over a span of 90-minutes his heart rate would peak at around 190bpm!
This means during an hour of playing the drums around 400-600 calories are burned. That’s the same kind burn rate as going for a run! With this comes an increase in heart rate, and blood flow circulation increases too. If you drum to help lose weight and improve your health it won’t be long before you see the benefits!
A two for one deal!
Clem Burke’s study concentrated on a pretty intense rate of drumming. But consider this. If you’re following a practice routine in your drum lessons then you’re likely drumming at least three times a week. (And to speak to a drum teacher about improving your routine, contact us!)
As you’d expect, this kind of regular practice is crucial to improving your drumming technique. But in this case: practising regularly means you’re exercising regularly.
Simply practising means you’re contributing to your own fitness and health. So if you take drum lessons you’re kind of benefitting from a two for one deal. (Who doesn’t like a bargain?!)
Whilst we’d never suggest you forfeit that early run, drumming can be a valuable tool to stay motivated whilst exercising. Drum teacher Joe Nicklin agrees:
“The physical benefits of drumming are there for all to see” Joe says. “If you’re susceptible to exercise boredom, like I am (!) drumming is a brilliant way to stay fit and engaged. It’s pretty fun at the same time too!”
Lower your blood pressure
The UK’s NHS has even being getting patients to take up drumming as a way benefit your health and help prevent illness. And simply listening to music lowers your blood pressure.
Can drumming build muscle?
As part of an exercise plan it’s definitely possible drumming can build muscle. However taking a drumming session with the sole aim of building muscle will take its toll. The health of your drum kit, skins and cymbals will probably suffer!
Drumming technique and drumming to build muscle don’t usually go hand in hand. It’s likely you’ll be forfeiting technique for the sake of building muscle. Ultimately that’s not a good thing.
Drummer Magazine has a fantastic, in-depth article which details how to integrate drumming into an exercise routine. There’s even a suggested daily programme at the end of the article to try!
Reduce chronic pain, boosts immune system
Drumming, and music-making, has been proven to boost and strengthen your immune system, particularly in relation to adults around 65 years old.
So many people contact us to ask “is it too late to learn the drums?” The research says it all – it is absolutely not!
And there’s even research currently underway linking drumming to reducing chronic pain. Participants of this study started to reduce pain medication and incredibly, in some cases the participants stopped pain medication altogether. (The research still appears to be ongoing so we’ll keep you updated!)
Mental Health Benefits of Drumming
Perhaps even more intriguing are the mental health benefits of drumming. This topic has seen a huge amount of research in the past decade:
Does drumming affect the brain?
Yes, in many different ways! Drumming promotes so many health benefits. From improved coordination to an increase in well-being and happiness, the results are extraordinary. A great place to start is this TEDEd video – how playing an instrument benefits your brain:
A recent study looked at comparing white matter (the brain’s “wiring”, so to speak) in the brain between that of drummers and non-drummers. The study found that during the testing of motor-related skills drummers brains weren’t so active. But before a round of drummer jokes begin, there was a reason!
The study found that the drummers brains were actually using this network in a much more efficient way. Brain activity lessened because this process is far easier for drummers. So when you drum, you are re-wiring your brain in the process!
This research shows that drumming can improve your coordination no end. The benefits to this are huge, not least for drumming technique. And the link between drumming and the brain doesn’t stop there.
Last year, a study found that dopamine is released whilst listening to music you enjoy. Dopamine controls brain functionality, from sleep to focus, and even mood. Drumming to a song you enjoy can be a positive boost to your general health and wellbeing. (If you already take drum lessons you’ve likely experienced this benefit already!)
Reducing anxiety & depression
The Royal College of Music in London conducted a study with some pretty incredible links between group drumming with depression and anxiety. It showed that this music therapy exercise helped reduce anxiety up to 20% and helped reduce depression up to 38%!
Benefits for Dementia & Altzimers
It also appears that those who play a musical instrument are less likely to be affected by the onset of dementia. Even for those who have already have dementia there are benefits. Playing an instrument can be key to keeping your brain healthy as music targets the area of the brain most affected by both Dementia and Altzimers.
Drumming for mental health and stress relief
The link between drumming and mental health is getting stronger as research continues. Drumming promotes happiness and its therapeutic nature helps releases negative feelings and, in turn, reduces stress.
Drum teacher Luca Romano says, “drumming is a great positive tool for mental health. By nature, drums are an instrument that requires physicality and energy to be played.
“It can serve as a great stress release catalyst. A bit like exercising, but with the added element of creativity that music can bring.”
So if you find yourself in a creative rut, drum lessons could be just the medicine you need!
Improving your well-being
If you’re UK based it’s likely that during spring 2020 you’ve been drumming weekly without realising. The “Clap For Our Carers” campaign has seen the nation supporting the incredible work of the NHS. Be it clapping, stomping or banging, people up and down the country have been on their doorsteps showing their support.
Anyone who has tried this has felt it produces feelings of positivity, collectiveness and connectedness. This has contributed to a huge mood boost and has been incredibly therapeutic during a particularly stressful period of time.
This collective universal language of “drumming” united the country. Drum teacher PJ Ciarla is in support. He says, “drumming is a universal language. It’s a long term commitment that helps you improve your attention span and keeps your body and mind stimulated.”
If you’ve been inspired by this weekly ritual, check out some of the body percussion ideas in this video. You don’t need a drum kit – or drum lessons for that matter – to feel the benefits:
Social development, academic performance
Research shows that engaging in music lessons can benefit social development. A study in the Journal of Music Therapy explains the impact this can make, particularly in underperforming or disadvantaged children. Drum teacher Josh Hussey says:
“There are many mental and physical health benefits of drumming. During my experience teaching I discovered development in areas I didn’t initially expect.
“Drumming helps build confidence. Early in my career I taught drum lessons at a Special Educational Needs School for boys between 8-16 years old. I taught 50 of the 68 students over three to four years.
“Lessons were introduced to help the boys ‘let off some steam’ with the hope of starting a band. Each student had different areas to improve. Confidence was common.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
“Drum lessons began in the typical format. But with these students having a set of learning difficulties I hadn’t encountered before I needed to change my approach. In particular, children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) found the initial stages of learning to drum quite hard.
Drum teacher Josh Hussey (Photo credit: @basil.photo)
“But after designing a colour-based syllabus that presented notation in a simple, relatable way they all began to progress fast. The system allowed all learners to benefit equally.
“This opened the door to many more benefits, including improvements in maths, understanding time and even problem solving. English skills, such as reading ability, improved. Hand/eye coordination increased, along with self confidence and speech ability.
“Students had the ability to sit still and stay focussed but were still able to work together. Listening skills improved with other band members and classmates.
“Drumming teaches you a lot about how to approach various situations. Without developing the skills involved with learning to drum it can be difficult to progress to the next stage. Drumming is the ideal vehicle for boosting confidence”.
Drumming can really give a huge boost to your confidence. You could even see your school grades benefit as a result!
Are there any drumming health issues?
We’ve talked about the health benefits of drumming but it’s worth being aware of some potential drumming health issues. As always, in the first instance contact your doctor for guidance. (These are pointers, not medical advice).
Perhaps the most common day-to-day issue is getting blisters when drumming. There are drumming gloves out there you can try however switching to a stick brand can often work.
There’s also the plaster trick. Rather than sticking a plaster over a potential blister hotspot on your finger, try this. Fix a plaster to the position on the stick where your forefinger would usually rub.
Can drumming damage hearing?
Drumming without ear protection can damage your hearing so you must always, always wear ear plugs. Musician ear plugs work at reducing harmful frequencies rather than cutting noise out altogether. So there’s no need to worry about not hearing what you’re doing in your drum lessons. They’re fairly cheap too!
(I once met film composer Hans Zimmer. As his scores are considered some of the most powerful out there I asked him how loud he works. He said he works “quietly of course, you only get one pair of ears!”)
The health benefits of drumming
Drumming is incredible fun. It’s a skill that has so many amazing benefits. Along with a healthy lifestyle, the effects of drumming can be life changing.
If staying fit and healthy sounds like a chore, drumming could really be what you’re looking for! Just taking a few drum lessons could lead to unexpected health benefits and improvements to your well-being.
Do you have any health benefits of drumming to share? Is drumming boosting your confidence? Or has drumming improved your grades? Let us know below!
If you want to experience some of the health benefits of drumming yourself, make sure you contact us for a teacher! (We provide London drum lessons but all of our associated teachers work online too).