How Drumming Can Benefit Diabetes Management

For thousands of years, drum circles* have been part of various cultures’ healing rituals.

Now, there is growing scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of percussion activities, although the best reason to join a drumming group might be that it’s fun.

Why Drumming Works

The popular appeal and therapeutic benefits of drumming are based on five principles:

  1. Percussion activity is motivating for everyone since responding to rhythm is basic to human functioning.
  2. The enjoyment of percussion activities is cross-cultural, transcending musical preferences.
  3. Group drumming has physical benefits such as relaxation, using fine motor skills, and sustained physical activity.
  4. Group drumming generates a sense of belonging, and the rhythmic beating produces entrainment: bringing people mentally, physically, and emotionally together.
  5. Percussion activities are accessible to most, requiring no musical background or previous training.

“It [drumming] can energize or relax. It can foster a sense of playfulness or release anger and tension. It can also help in the conquering of social isolation and the building of positive relationships,” said musician and drumming teacher, Simon Lee.

Drumming, Diabetes, and Health

Although drumming may not directly affect anyone’s blood sugar levels, it does provide health benefits that indirectly but powerfully support people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Drumming, for instance, boosts our immune system. Those with diabetes need a strong immune system because of their susceptibility to infection. Extensive research done by Dr. Barry Bittman and others revealed that drumming significantly increases the disease fighting power of our white blood cells. “Group drumming tunes our biology, orchestrates our immunity, and enables healing to begin,” said Bittman.

Bittman’s research also shows that drumming relaxes people, lowers blood pressure, and relieves stress—all important for blood sugar control, and cardiovascular health.

Mood and Weight Management

While lowering stress and blood pressure, percussion activities simultaneously uplift our mood. Drumming even helps alleviate depression, a problem those with diabetes are more prone to than non-diabetics.

In a recent UK study, involvement in ten weekly drumming sessions reduced depression and anxiety symptoms in depressed individuals not taking antidepressants. The group drumming experience enhanced the participants' social resilience as well, and elevated their overall sense of well being.

Drumming is also an excellent weight management tool. Though not a substitute for aerobic exercise, it’s a physical pursuit that helps us avoid the pitfalls of a too sedentary lifestyle. It might be a great way for someone who is out of shape to start increasing their activity level.

Getting Started

Adults in the U.S. spend an average of ten hours per day in a chair, and not even an hour at the gym can offset the effects of so much sitting. The simple solution is to put more movement into our day. Participating in a drum circle would be a fun way to move about more, and provides an opportunity to make new friends.

Because there are numerous drum circles throughout the U.S., it’s not difficult for most of us to find one in our vicinity. Try Googling your city or state with “drum circle” to find one or, go to the USA Drum Circle Finder page—link provided below. You can also search “drum circles” on YouTube to enjoy plenty of drumming videos.

Sources: Drum Circle Finder; Bittman Study; Plos; Mercola; Dave Roberts Online; Lifehack; BBC News; ADA
Photo credit: Renate Meijer

*Drum circles: participants sit in a circle and play drums or other hand percussion instruments, creating a group rhythm experience.

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