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Health & Wellness

How Drumming May Help You Stay in Rhythm with a Healthy Life

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When you hear a catchy beat, the urge to drum along by tapping your fingers on the closest surface can be pretty irresistible.

Chances are good that whoever is nearby will be tapping to the rhythm, too. And it’s likely that impromptu jam session brings a smile to your face and a lift to your spirits.

Science suggests the benefits of drumming may go beyond even this feel-good mood boost. One study of middle-aged and younger subjects found that after 40 minutes of djembe drumming, participants showed several indications of reduced stress and anxiety levels, including significantly lowered blood pressure. Djembe drumming, the researchers concluded, may improve heart health without the cardiovascular risks to unhealthy or older individuals that are sometimes associated with higher intensity exercise.

Another study looked at the impact of group drumming over ten weeks. Comparing drummers to non-drummers, the participants who made music together had significant decreases in depression and improved social resilience, as well as observed improvements in other areas 

None of this would come as a surprise to Peter Marino of Smyrna, Georgia. His company, One Hour Drummer, uses drumming as a wellness tool. He leads group-drumming sessions at the Cancer Wellness Program at Piedmont Fayette Hospital and Piedmont Newnan Hospital, as well as at several local senior centers. Participants choose their percussive instrument of choice, the goblet-shaped West African djembe drums; tall, narrow conga drums; tambourines; shakers; cowbells, and more.

The joy of taking part in a drum circle is, Marino says, instant and infectious. “Most of the seniors have never played a musical instrument in their life,” he says. “But once we start the spirit will move them. We begin sitting down and before long many people have gotten up and are dancing, even those who might find it challenging to walk. One of my best cowbell players is a woman who’s 101 years old.”

If you think you’re too rhythmically challenged to drum, Marino doesn’t believe you. “People are always saying they have no sense of rhythm,” he says. “And I tell them if you can walk down the street unnoticed, you have enough rhythm to play drums.”

Getting started in drumming doesn’t require buying an actual drum. A five-gallon water jug, popcorn tins or a wooden stool will suffice. “It’s not about the drum, it’s about the drummer, the movements and muscle memory,” Marino says. His website includes a video on Drum Alternatives: Inexpensive Ways to be a Drummer. You can also find countless free videos online that provide tutorials on drumming at every level of skill and experience.

Ready to venture outside your home to explore drumming? To practice moving in sync to rhythm, try listening to music and following the beat the next time you’re walking on a treadmill, Marino suggests. Wherever you live, there are probably people meeting up to drum together; try searching online for “drum circle near me.” 

“Drummers are very open and welcoming,” Marino says. “Find a drum circle and just watch and listen. Once you feel comfortable join in. The biggest challenge you’ll face is getting over believing that you need to get drumming right from the start. That’s nonsense. You don’t have to be Tito Puente to play and have fun.”

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