Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Beating the Drums for Fitness

Boy, if someone had taken a video of our senior fitness class at the core-fit club today and put it on YouTube, it would have gone viral -- that is, if we had not all gone ICU and breathing tubes first (just kidding!).

Instead of sitting on the big ol' Swiss ball and doing biceps curls, or lying front or back on them and doing push-ups or crunches, we rat-a-tat-tatted on them with drumsticks. (And also clinked the sticks overhead and pounded them on the workout room floor.) Our substitute teacher for the day, Susan,  introduced us to drums (mounted atop a stack of aerobic-step risers) as an instrument of fast-paced cardio exercise.

Imagine a group of oldsters (actually I was probably the only qualifier for that label) beating the drums on the sides, on the top, every which way, while jumping up and down. Yep it sure would have made entertaining video.

Turns out that drumming for exercise has been a thing for quite a while. As usual, I was several paces behind the times and hadn't heard about it. Now, from googling I find that a drummer can elevate his heart rate up to 190 beats a minute (elite athlete territory), and can burn up to 400 calories in a hour of brisk drumming. Of course, only part of our senior fitness class was given over to the drumming. But the idea of bursts of intense exercise yielding benefits comparable to prolonged or slow-and-steady exertion is something I picked up from a new book our regular teacher, Sarah, recommended for us: The Science of Exercise (a special Time edition currently on many news stands).

Many experts (such as the American College of Sports Medicine) recommend 150 minutes of exercise per week, which works out (no pun intended) to 30 minutes, 5 days per week. Some advocates suggest 7,000 to 10,000 steps per day as a good goal for step-trackers striving to get in better shape. But as noted in the Time special edition, some intriguing research -- pioneered by Martin Gibala at McMaster University -- indicates that people may achieve comparable benefits by working out for less-lengthy periods of time but with short bursts of high intensity. I mean we are talking about a one-minute workout within a 10-minute warm-up and cool-down -- or workouts three times a week, totaling 30 minutes. Wow! 

While I've never been a great fan of Time magazine, I give this special issue an A-plus. It anticipates the day when our doctors will prescribe exercise along with our pills -- and indeed maybe in place of many or all of our pills. Exercise could be our new miracle drug if we would embrace it. I need to study The Science of Exercise carefully because there is no telling when Sarah will give us a pop quiz on it after she returns. She might even yell questions at us while we are planking (which, by the way, I enjoy more than drumming!).

                                                 © Robert Gray Holland  (2018)

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