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

J Cardiovasc Med (Hagerstown). 2014 Jun;15(6):441-6. doi: 10.2459/JCM.0000000000000046.


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.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology
  • Anxiety / prevention & control
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / rehabilitation*
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Young Adult


  • Lactic Acid