From the "any exercise is better than no exercise" perspective, I'd imagine that playing drums at high tempo would be considered effective - it certainly can work up a sweat and obviously must burn more calories than just sitting on the couch, but it's hard to say how effective it actually is without hard numbers. Are there any reliable sources which can provide MET or actual calorie burn data by which we could compare drumming with other exercises?

Also, while it's obviously physically taxing beyond a certain level of skill, does drumming actually raise the heart rate enough to really count as cardio?

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    Related: I found someone's measurements here using a GoWear Fit and Rock Band drumming on expert, but I know very little about the GoWear or similar devices and don't know how accurate the data presented is. Apr 8, 2012 at 6:06
  • 750 kcal in 1.5 hr? That's not too bad, especially given you're doing something you enjoy, so chances are you're much more likely to do it regularly.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Apr 8, 2012 at 8:04
  • I'd imagine if you throw a few pairs of drumsticks into the crowd could add a few extra calories if done explosively.
    – Salsero69
    Apr 8, 2012 at 11:39

7 Answers 7


A trainer did research on me over a 3 month period as a part of his bachelors studies in sessions twice a week, one hour each. The subject (me) is a 37 (36 at the time) year old metal drummer with 22 years behind the kit who puts in about an hour behind the kit on average pr. day and does no other exercise. Here's some data. Average resting heart-rate: 49. Body fat: 8%. Average heart rate while drumming: 156. Peak heart rate while drumming: 203. I need a strict high-calorie diet to maintain my body weight. You may not acquire a bodybuilder's physique by drumming but stating that regular vigorous drumming does not build muscle is nonsense; drumming is a full body workout which will particularly build your entire lower body muscles, lower back, abs, shoulders, triceps and forearms.

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    Do you have a copy of his writeup?
    – John
    Apr 10, 2017 at 11:51

Upon further research I stumbled upon this gem from Arizona State University, which catalogs the MET values of various activities. Under the Music Playing category, they list "drums, sitting" as 3.8 METs and "drumming (e.g., bongo, conga, benbe), moderate, sitting" as 3.0 METs, so it seems like the that the forum post claiming ~498 kcal/hr for a 250lb male isn't too far off.

Of course I'd still love to see data from a heart rate monitor during play. The above establishes that drumming (even on plastic toy drums) is definitely exercise, but is it a viable form of cardio?

Update I found this BBC article in which professional drummer Clem Burke was hooked up to equipment to measure heart rate, oxygen uptake and lactic acid production. It was found that during a performance his heart rate averaged 140-150 BPM with peaks up to 190 BPM, comparable to top athletes. Not only does this show that expert-level drumming can be effective cardio, but there's even a dedicated "drumming laboratory" being built at the University of Glouchestershire to continue the study.

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    If its viable cardio? How many hours per week would you be doing it that intensive? If you would do it 2-3 hours per week, then I'd definitely count it as exercise
    – Ivo Flipse
    Apr 8, 2012 at 20:20
  • -1 Burning calories is not exercise. It is an activity but will do little to better enhance your health. You would be far better off walking at a slow pace than drumming for health benefits. Like saying someone working on a factory line making widgets quickly is exercising because they are moving their arms quickly and burning calories. This is really ludicrous and false information.
    – DMoore
    Jan 25, 2017 at 17:39
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    How exactly would you define exercise then? Clearly drumming isn't weightlifting, but it seems to tick all the boxes for cardio. It raises your heart rate for extended periods of time, burns calories, increases body temperature, exhausts glycogen supplies in the utilized muscles... What magical criteria are we missing here to make you happy? Jan 25, 2017 at 17:48
  • My loose definition of exercise (not what I really think) is what you could tell your doctor that you do 4-5 times a week and he/she would be "That's great that you exercise." If you told your doctor you play the drums he would laugh. Nobody upvoted your answer who has any semblance of fitness or exercise. I am not trying to be mean but you are the one who answered your own question quite poorly. Google - "list of cardio exercises" and please tell me what hits you get for drumming or anything even remotely familiar ... cont.
    – DMoore
    Jan 27, 2017 at 6:01
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    By that definition, nearly all gym equipment and its associated movements don't count as exercise. Sorry, but your definition is so narrow as to be useless, and flies in the face of common sense, sport science, and proper use of the English language. Working your core is certainly important, but implying that nothing can be exercise without that criteria is absurd. Just because it's not a full-body exercise does not mean it's excluded from the category entirely, and to imply otherwise is simply idiotic. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. Jan 27, 2017 at 17:33

Well, as an exercise physiologist, drumming (e.g., playing a kit vigorously) is indeed exercise. What most people fail to get about what they consider exercise is that it mimics and is a substitute for, real functional work. Your body doesn't care if it's lifting logs or weights. It doesn't care if your 150 bpm cardio workout is from a bike or playing double bass - all your body knows is that, "hey, my heart is beating faster & I need to remodel myself & the vascular system so I can adapt to this workload".

In short, nope, drumming is not running marathons & it's not lifting weights to failure... However, if you're playing vigorously and sustained, if the heart rate is within the ranges necessary to illicit a response (according to my Polar the average is indeed), it is exercise - valid, cardiovascular exercise with all the benefits of "real" cardio. In addition, it uses all 4 limbs & the core for stabilization, unlike running or cycling (little to no upper body). It doesn't receive the benefits of being weight bearing as does running, but neither does cycling.

To conclude, if you're playing vigorously and regularly you're getting a decent cardio workout. You'd never train beyond a certain level - would never really experience the benefits of overloading to constantly push for increased benefits - but the benefits would remain.



“The aim of this study was to quantify the energy cost of rock/pop drumming. Fourteen male drummers (mean±SD; age 27±8 yrs.) completed an incremental drumming test to establish the relationship between energy expenditure and heart rate for this activity and a ramped cycle ergometer test to exhaustion as a criterion measure for peak values (oxygen uptake and heart rate). During live concert performance heart rate was continuously measured and used to estimate energy expenditure (from the energy expenditure vs. heart rate data derived from the drumming test).

In summary, rock/pop drumming represents a relatively high-intensity form of physical activity. It involves significant energy expenditure, induces high HR and requires a high V̇O 2.

Drumming warrants further attention as a mode of physical activity because it has the potential to provide long-term health benefits and is perhaps a form of activity that would attract people who are less inclined to participate in traditional forms of exercise such as running or cycling.

While it is clearly possible to incur significant energy expenditure while participating in rock/pop drumming, it should be recognised that the present study utilised professional and semi-professional drummers and whether such high rates of energy expenditure would be achieved by novice or intermediate drummers requires further investigation. It is worth noting, however, that the drum pattern and fill used in the present study is a relatively simple one and could be performed by drummers with limited drumming experience.”


It's not good to generalize on the heart rate of others. Some people run at 155 bpm, others at 105. Monitor your own heart rate'when drumming.

I hope it works. Drumming certainly seems more fun than a treadmill!


I use a Garmin fenix3 hr for all activities, including drumming, monitoring HR and temp.

Depending on tempo and rhythm type, the HR varies from the equivalent of a walk to a full on bike sprint. Temp rises throughout a 30 min session linearly, and this seems to also cause HR to raise. Temp gets to the point where you need fans or have to cool off to raise tempo further.

Agreed with other commented, HR very individual. I can get 180 bpm just with a brief jog, and I am at 200 going hard on MTB. Means nothing.


Don't confuse burning calories with exercise. Drumming certainly can be hard work but it is not exercise. Well maybe if you are at the very beginning stages of exercise it has some beneficial element but it is not exercise unless you are using the broadest definition - way too broad for this site.

Drumming again is work and you can burn a lot of calories working. I used to carry tables and chairs all day. I am sure there were hours I burned 500-1000 calories and had a high heart rate... wasn't exercise though.

It is an activity that is good because it burns calories and it is fun. Certainly burning more calories than playing the flute. But you are not getting any of the health benefits of exercise while playing the drums. You are just getting better at playing the drum, sweating, and burning calories.

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