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11 Health Benefits of Drumming

In recent years, there has been a resurgence in interest in drumming—not only for entertainment but also for its therapeutic effects on the body.

In fact, the number of research studies on the health benefits of drumming continues to grow each year.

But what some people don’t realize is that the wellness benefits of drumming don’t require you to be “good” at drumming. That’s because the benefits happen by simply engaging in the process of a rhythmic activity.

Just by being willing to try drumming, you can open a whole new world of fun, relaxation and even friendship!

That’s why today I’m sharing my top 11 health benefits of drumming with you.

The healing power of drumming

Jim Donovan's Music and Wellness class at Saint Francis University 

The word healing means “bring back into balance”.

In my years of leading drumming events, I can confidently say that I've witness and experience this kind of healing on a weekly basis

Examples include:

Seeing a young man in my group drumming circle with a heroin addiction—just out of detox—transform from completely disengaged to smiling and sociable within 30 minutes of drumming…

Or the 83 year old woman at a senior living facility with Alzheimer’s who “woke up” from her lethargy upon hearing the rhythms of our percussion tubes…

Or chatting with my friend Jill who uses drumming to soothe her early onset Parkinson’s symptoms…

Though not a miracle "cure", drumming can greatly improve one’s quality of life.

And it doesn’t seem to matter what “kind” of person you are.

I’ve drummed with thousands of people since the mid 1980’s. In that time I’ve led more than 3000 events with all kinds of people—older adults, kids, corporate execs, incarcerated people, and college students to name a few.

But however interesting it might be to read anecdotes, it’s also important to explore the science supporting how drumming affects health and well being.

Now let's look at a brief overview of what the research is revealing about the health benefits of drumming.

 


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11 Research Based Health Benefits of Drumming

A behavioral healthcare professional working on attention to-task with a boy with Autism

What follows are several key ways that drumming can improve health and well being along with links to the research. 

Improves Blood Circulation.

A study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine found that drumming helped improve blood circulation. It's believed that the rhythmic movement of the hands and feet helps stimulate the flow of blood through the veins and arteries.

Boosts Immunity.

Drumming is used as an alternative therapy for people with various ailments. They may help boost immunity by increasing the production of white blood cells. These cells fight off infections and diseases.

Reduces Inflammation.

In a 2016 study published in PLOS One, during a 10 week drumming program with mental health service users, participants showed a decrease in depression symptoms, an increase in social resilience and a significant shift away from a pro-inflammatory towards an anti-inflammatory immune profile.

Boosts Mood.

This 2014 study published in The Arts in Psychiatry reported significant positive effects on university students’ scores along all five spectrums of affective state (i.e., wide awake–drowsy, relaxed–anxious, cheerful–depressed, friendly–aggressive, and clear-headed–confused).

Better Cognitive Functioning.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Huntington's Disease reported that after two months of drumming training, improvements in executive function, cognitive enhancement and enhancements in the brain’s white matter were observed.

Reduce Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms.

This 2016 pilot study reported a 12 week drumming program significantly and reversibly improved quality of life in patients with PD

Relieves Stress and Anxiety

One of the most common reasons people drum together or alone is for reliable stress reduction. This 2018 study reports that a 10 week drumming series improved qualitative measures of well-being, agency, mood and social connection. And another 2016 study found that group hand drumming effectively relieved anxiety and depression. 

Reduces Pain.

A 2012 University of Oxford study looking at drumming and music performance’s effect on pain and mood concluded that active, vigorous performance of music can lead to an Increased pain tolerance. This comes from a release of endorphins that produce a similar euphoria to opioids – without the risk of overdose. According to this study, continuous drumming likely triggers an  euphoric endorphin release in the central nervous system.

Boosts Social Connection

According to this collection of studies reported in the International Journal of Special Education,, recreational group drumming provided significant improvements in social-emotional behaviors in low-income children who engaged in contemporary drum circles and group counseling.

Improves Attention-to Task in Children with Autism

In a 2011 study I was a part of at Saint Francis University, we found that percussion, when used as a clinical intervention, positively impacts the length of time a client with Autism will sustain attention-to-task.

Improved Cognitive Function In People with Dementia

This 2020 study concluded that drumming improved cognitive function and upper limb motion range, and changes in body composition. The results suggest that drumming could be used as a way to promote exercise and improve various health and cognitive functions.

How to get started drumming

Adults learning to drum at a Jim Donovan drumming event

All it takes to start drumming is willingness to try. 

If you have your own drum then great! If not you can easily start by drumming on your lap or a pillow. 

Drumming can be as informal as grabbing a couple of wooden spoons from the kitchen, turning on your favorite groove heavy music playing along the best you can. If you need some music suggestions, here’s a playlist I made for you.

That was my exact “practice” regimen for 3 years when I first started!

You can also search online for a local drum circle or local drum lessons.

If you’re looking for a way to use rhythm to relax, here’s my favorite rhythm for relaxation and sleep exercise.

Lastly, I believe that drumming is for everyone.

No matter what you may have been told in the past, musical expression is your right. We all start at the beginning when trying something new and so I encourage you to give drumming a try and see for yourself.

You might be surprised at how good you can feel.


Sources:

African drumming: a holistic approach to reducing stress and improving health? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24983262/

Recreational music-making modulates natural killer cell activity, cytokines, and mood states in corporate employees https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17261984/

Effects of Group Drumming Interventions on Anxiety, Depression, Social Resilience and Inflammatory Immune Response among Mental Health Service Users https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0151136

Immediate effects of group-based wellness drumming on affective states in university students https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0197455614000537

Improved Executive Function and Callosal White Matter Microstructure after Rhythm Exercise in Huntington's Disease https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266744908_Improved_Executive_Function_and_Callosal_White_Matter_Microstructure_after_Rhythm_Exercise_in_Huntington's_Disease

DRUM PD: The Use of a Drum Circle to Improve the Symptoms and Signs of Parkinson's Disease (PD) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4914050/

Promoting well-being through group drumming with mental health service users and their carers https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6041820/

Performance of Music Elevates Pain Threshold and Positive Affect: Implications for the Evolutionary Function of Music https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/147470491201000403

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1184084.pdf

Disclaimer:

No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. 

The material provided on this site is for educational purposes only and any recommendations are not intended to replace the advice of your physician. You are encouraged to seek advice from a competent medical professional regarding the applicability of any recommendations with regard to your symptoms or condition.

Copyright © 2022 by Blue Beat Media. Thank you for your interest in Jim Donovan. We do not allow republication of our full newsletters and articles. However, you can post a portion (no more than 90 words, 1-2 paragraphs) of our content with a live link back to our homepage, donovanhealth.com, or a link to the specific article you are quoting from.

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