Is Air Drumming Good Exercise? (Calories and Heart Rate)

I play music. I also love working out. In fact, I have lost about 110 lbs. (50 kgs.) over the last 14 years or so. While I usually go to the gym or hike, I came across a new air drumming-as-cardio fitness routine and it piqued my interest. Highly skeptical, I wanted to know the following: Is air drumming good exercise? As it turns out…

Air drumming, done as a cardio workout, can burn more than 900 calories per hour and raise your heart rate significantly. This makes air drumming a fine cardiovascular workout capable of helping you improve your fitness and lose some weight, assuming you maintain proper nutrition.  

Before you cancel your gym membership, throw away your running shoes and retire your bicycle, there is more to the air drumming story. This article will address the following topics:

  • What is Air Drumming?
  • How Many Calories Can You Burn?
  • Air Drumming and Heart Rate
  • Can You Lose Weight Air Drumming?
  • Encore
  • Related Questions

What is Air Drumming?

Air drumming: (n.) The act of pretending to play the drums without an actual drum set.

This YouTube video offers a perfect example of air drumming at its best:

While it may look silly, serious air drumming, just like serious actual drumming, requires:

  • Excellent coordination of all four limbs
  • Engagement of the abdominals and core muscles
  • A certain degree of stamina and cardiovascular fitness
  • Proper breathing

Done properly and for prolonged periods of time, air drumming can be quite the workout.

Don’t believe me? Then consider the POUND Rockout Workout, which was created in 2011 by recreational drummers Kirsten Potanza and Cristina Peerenboom. It uses intense air drumming as a form of cardio, conditioning and strength training.

Check it out in this YouTube video:

How Many Calories Can You Burn?

They claim in this Fox News article that the POUND Rockout Workout can burn up to 900 calories per 45-minute session. That’s 1,200 calories burned per hour.

How does that compare to other forms of exercise?

This table will give you a general idea of the number of calories burned per hour for various activities. Click the links to take you to the reference source.

If there is no link, I calculated the information using this awesome calorie calculator by Very Well Fit. I used 150 lbs. for all of the calculations. If you weigh more than 150 lbs., assume that you will burn more calories per hour. If you weigh less, assume that you will burn less calories per hour.

NOTE: Exact numbers will vary depending on age, gender, current weight, metabolic rate, body composition, form and intensity of the activity, and other factors. Consider this a general reference, and not necessarily 100% specific to you.

Activity Calories per Hour
Sleeping 64
Watching TV 75
Reading 75
Having Sex* 93
Heavy Concentration 110
Eating 140
Standing 143
Stretching 179
Yoga 179
Bowling 214
Cleaning 214
Pilates 214
Walking (slow) 214
Weightlifting (moderate) 214
Bodyweight Exercises (moderate) 250
Actual Drumming (moderate) 250
Walking (brisk) 271
Gardening 286
Raking Leaves 286
Tai Chi 286
Volleyball 286
Golf 321
Baseball/Softball 357
Ice Skating (slow) 393
Mowing the Lawn 393
Basketball 429
Cycling (slow) 429
Shoveling Snow 429
Weightlifting (vigorous) 429
Wrestling 429
Soccer 500
Tennis 500
Bodyweight Exercises (vigorous) 572
Beach Volleyball 572
Cycling (moderate) 572
Football 572
Ice Hockey 572
Running (12 min/mile) 572
Swimming (freestyle, moderate) 572
Ultimate Frisbee 572
Actual Drumming (vigorous) 600
Mountain Biking 607
Ice Skating (fast) 643
Cycling (fast) 714
Martial Arts 714
Rugby 714
Running (10 min/mile) 714
Swimming (freestyle, fast) 786
Cardio Drumming Class 900
POUND Rockout Workout 900+

*This seems surprisingly low. I assume it is for 5 minutes of sex and 55 minutes of sleeping afterwards?!?

And the proof is in the pudding. Air drumming, done as a high-intensity cardio class, can be an excellent way to burn off calories on a per hour basis.

Even if it were just normal air drumming, you can burn a good number of calories if you do it for an extended period of time and you use all 4 of your limbs like an actual drummer would.

Air Drumming and Heart Rate

According to this BBC News article, the stamina of drummers can rival that of professional athletes.

Clem Burke, the drummer of rock group Blondie, was scientifically tested during drumming sessions. They discovered that during his drumming sessions his heart rate averaged between 140-150 beats per minute (bpm), and he reached a peak of 190 bpm.

This is comparable to the performance of high performing athletes. The difference being that professional drummers on tour often perform more regularly than professional athletes. This intensity and frequency can give drummers great cardiovascular stamina.

If your air drumming can mimic this intensity and frequency, you will have yourself a fine workout. And even at more moderate levels, and depending on your current fitness level, you can still raise your heartrate sufficiently enough for positive benefits to your health.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), our normal resting heart rate can be between 60-100 bpm. The lower the better.

The average maximum heartrate is roughly calculated to be 220 – your age. So, my average maximum heartrate would be 220 – 33 = 187 bpm.

With respect to physical exercise, the AHA recommends the following target heartrates:

  • moderate intensity activities = 50-70% of max heart rate
  • vigorous physical activity = 70-85% of max heart rate

Once again, how does this compare to the possible heart rates achieved my intense air drumming? Let’s check the chart:

Age Max Heart Rate 50% of Max 85% of Max
20 200 100 170
25 195 98 166
30 190 95 162
35 185 93 157
40 180 90 153
45 175 88 149
50 170 85 145
55 165 83 140

So, for all ages, air drumming has the potential to be a moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Can You Lose Weight Air Drumming?

Considering the opportunity to burn calories and increase your heart rate, it is possible to lose weight while incorporating air drumming into your life.

Air drumming alone, however, will not be enough to shed the pounds. This holds true even if you are burning upwards of 1,200 calories in a 1-hour POUND Rockout Workout.

Losing weight, in the simplest of forms, requires a calorie deficit. This means burning off and using more calories than you consume. You can exercise all you want, but you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. I’m living proof of that ; )

Still, it is possible to eat well and air drum your way into a slimmer body. Here are some additional tips to consider on your quest to drop some points while you hold down the beat:

  • Time: The longer your air drumming session, the more calories you can burn
  • Intensity: The more intense you hit that fake drum kit, the more calories you will burn per hour
  • Engagement: The more engaged your muscles are in the movement, the more calories you will burn.
  • Tempo: The faster the tempo of the song, the higher your heartrate will be… and you will burn more calories
  • Four Limbs: Don’t just air drum with your arms; get your legs into it, too.
  • Core: Engage your core like a real drummer would.
  • Proper Breathing: Improve your breathing, and you will improve your workout.
  • Eat Right: Again, all of this is a waste if you choose to eat and drink like a rock-star after your air drumming session.


Air drumming, done intensely and for prolonged periods of time, has the potential to:

  • Burn a significant number of calories
  • Raise your heart rate to moderate or vigorous levels

All of this is to say, despite what the naysayers might claim, air drumming has the potential to be a good exercise. The numbers do not lie.

If you can avoid eating and drinking like a drummer, even better!

Related Questions

What is the best song for air drumming? There are many classic songs which make for excellent air drumming. Without question, the most famous is In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins. Watch this YouTube video and give it a try for yourself right now… seriously!

Other classics include:

  • When the Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  • We Will Rock You – Queen
  • Tom Sawyer – Rush

Is air guitar also good exercise? Air guitar, like air drumming, is the act of playing a guitar without actually having one. The freedom provided by not being plugged into an amp lets you jump around and explore your musical space to your hearts content. If you air guitar for long periods of time and are very active you can raise your heart rate and burn some calories, meaning that air guitar has the potential to be a decent exercise, too.  

Jack Clancy

Everything I do is focused on this concept: "To inspire personal change, so that together we can become the people we wish to be."

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