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African drumming: a holistic approach to reducing stress and improving health?

Smith, Carine; Viljoen, Jeandre T.; McGeachie, Lauren

Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine: June 2014 - Volume 15 - Issue 6 - p 441–446
doi: 10.2459/JCM.0000000000000046
Exercise and cardiovascular prevention: Original articles

Aims Very little data are available on the physical requirements for drumming and the potential health benefits of particularly djembe drumming. We hypothesized that djembe drumming constitutes low-to-moderate intensity exercise, and that drumming would simultaneously reduce stress and anxiety levels and benefit cardiovascular health.

Methods Two study populations, middle-aged experienced drummers and a younger novice group participated in 40-min djembe drumming sessions. Measurements of blood pressure, blood lactate and stress and anxiety levels were taken before and after sessions. Also, heart rate was monitored at 5-s intervals throughout each session.

Results Participation in drumming significantly decreased the Stress Anxiety Index scores acutely, both in a middle-aged (P < 0.01) and younger population (P < 0.001). SBP was significantly decreased in the older population postdrumming (141 ± 24 vs. 153 ± 26 mmHg; P < 0.01). Blood lactate levels remained below 4 mmol/l in all individuals and together with heart rate suggest that drumming may be categorized as low-to-moderate intensity exercise.

Conclusion Djembe drumming may improve cardiovascular health, without the cardiovascular risks to unhealthy or older populations that are associated with higher intensity exercise, and at the same time may decrease stress and anxiety levels. Furthermore, participation in drumming did not result in acute hypotension in normotensive individuals.

Department of Physiological Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Correspondence to Professor Carine Smith, Department of Physiological Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa Tel: +27 21 808 4388; fax: +27 21 808 3145; e-mail:

Received 21 June, 2013

Revised 17 February, 2014

Accepted 17 February, 2014

© 2014 Italian Federation of Cardiology. All rights reserved.