Beat of different drummers takes to stability balls to balance exercise and mental workout

As Queen’s “We Will Rock You” played, residents of Touchmark on South Hill kept the beat in a drumming pattern.

The seven members aren’t in a rock band, but rather an exercise class. A new fitness trend called DrumFit challenges the brain and body, as people keep the beat, using drumsticks fashioned from PVC piping and a stability ball instead of a drum.

Fitness specialist Dawn Olson led the group by announcing moves and patterns, ranging from forceful pounding to soft sounds moving sideways across the ball. At times, the patterns were without music or to a song softly playing in the background.

Touchmark, a retirement community, introduced DrumFit in late October; the class runs six weeks, held on Mondays and Wednesdays. It also is a stress release as you pound down on the ball, said Olson, who noticed the trend online as a program that could be done standing or sitting.

“We were brainstorming one day, and I love going online and seeing what the new fitness crazes are,” Olson said. “One thing I saw was this drumming on stability balls.”

She learned more about how it helps with brain and body connection.

“You’re using the drumming as patterning so it helps with cognition, memory and you’re also using your body movement,” Olson said.

“This class is very customizable. Someone in an advanced aerobic class can take it, or someone living in assisted living can take it. If you’re doing a seated class, which is what we’ve been doing, it’s going to be a little less aerobically but a little more cognitive with the patterning.”

About 30 minutes of drumming can burn as many calories as running, aerobics or weightlifting, according to the program’s information. The class members work on memorizing the drum patterns that help with both short-term and long-term memory, said Olson, who also reminded them during sessions about keeping good posture. She begins and ends the class with stretches.

Gail Synoground, 87, said the class is more about fun.

“It’s a wonderful workout,” she said. “It encourages not only exercise but also a contribution to the sound, and if you goof, you look around and know you’re not the only one. Dawn makes it fun and combines exercise along with learning something new.”

Another class member keeping the beat was Mary Laflamme, 83. She concentrated as instructions rolled out.

“I love it; I look forward to it,” Laflamme said. She’d always wanted to learn to drum and enjoys going to Spokane Symphony performances.

“I’m using my brain and my body because we have to learn the patterns and be aware of the music, so we’re thinking all the time. You can’t just doze off.”

Olson instructed them to sit up tall at the edge of the chair and take deep breaths. She had them do patterns first with stretches while holding the drumsticks overhead and reaching side to side, and then with some clicks of the sticks overhead.

Soon, she had them hover over the top center of the ball, starting slow with drumming, and then speeding it up.

“You’re going to get warm really quick,” Olson said. After more stretching, it was back to a drumming pattern.

“Start slow,” she said. “And a little faster – faster, faster. Super tempo is what it’s called – go, go, go.”

For more complex patterns, they crossed the ball and even tapped the floor, and Olson guided with a chant. “Cross tap, cross tap, side to side,” she said. “It’s a lot of upper body work.”

The $75 class ends Dec. 5, but Olson expects to bring it back. “As soon as people get an idea and understanding of what it’s about, I think it will really take off.”