Rhythm Walking for Life

By Kalani • November 21st, 2010

People all around the world take morning walks as a means to staying fit and starting the day with energy and motion. Walking is said to be one of the best forms of exercise there is. It's low-impact, requires almost no equipment, is accessible to almost everyone, gets us out of our homes and out into the world, and it's a great way to feel socially connected to your neighbors and community. Walking is also very rhythmic. The alternating movements in walking create a clear and steady beat that carries us forward with each step. Walking is one of our primary rhythmic actions and fundamental in so many ways. Gaston, said to be the 'Father' of modern music therapy, called Rhythm "The energizer and organizer of music." To put these concepts into a personal context, we can think of the "energy" of rhythm as providing motivation and the "organization" of rhythm as providing structure and direction.

Having both motivation and structure helps us meet our health goals because one without the other would leave us either motivated without direction or directed without motivation. It follows that music (and specifically rhythm) can help us reach our workout goals, if applied in purposeful and specific ways. If you examine how people have used music and rhythm throughout history, this becomes self-evident. We see people walking and jogging with their headphone chords dangling from their ears, using music to keep them moving forward. Visit any type of aerobic workout class at a gym and you will likely hear rhythmic music pumping into the room to keep people motivated and unified. Drumming and rhythmic singing has a long history of use as an organizer and motivator for people who work in all types of manual labor jobs, from the fields to factories.

The world is always new.

Rhythm can have a very positive effect on our levels and intensity of participation in exercise. So much so that the creators of "Walking - The Ultimate Exercises for Optimum Health," Dr. Andrew Weil and Mark Fenton, used live drumming as the background for their fitness program. In 2006, the producers from Sounds True, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that creates health-promoting programs, contacted Kalani and asked him to create several pieces of music to serve as the foundation of the Walking Workout. The tracks support walking tempos (bpm - beats per minute), or in this case, "steps per minute." The music consists of drumming grooves that are meant to both energize (motivate) and organize one's walking. Kalani composed and produced the music according to their goal, which was to provide a musical accompaniment to the walking exercises that would serve as as aesthetically pleasing foundation for the program. Of course live music is always preferred over recorded, but 'recorded live' music is the next best thing. You can use the Sounds True program or create your own. The Sounds True program also has lots of other information about the health benefits of walking, as well as an overall plan for creating a personal walking routine. You can find out more about the walking program on the Sounds True website.

Rhythm Walk Basics:

  • Commit to a Rhythm Walk schedule. Mornings are good, but anytime is fine.
  • Choose some music that will motivate you, something with the energy and intensity you need.
  • Choose music that has the structure you need. Use the Tempo Guide below to help you choose the right music.
  • Prepare your Rhythm Walk sound track. See below.
  • Warm up, stretch, then start your Rhythm Walk. As you become more fit, you can increase the total time and/or intensity of the rhythms.
  • Cool down, stretch, relax, then enjoy the benefits.

Tip: As you walk, practice mindfulness. What is that? It's the practice of being. Being is living in the moment, noticing life as it is, not following your mind into the past or future, and seeing the world from a perspective of wonder and appreciation. To practice mindfulness (or what I like to think of as "mindlessness" - not using so much "mind") simply observe the beauty around you as you walk. Notice colors, shapes, sounds, smells, sensations, and feelings. See the world for the first time, as a child or an explorer in a new land. One of the keys to this practice is to not label things. When you see, hear or sense something, resist the temptation to label or name it. Labeling is limiting! Simply observe and enjoy being in state of wonderment at the world. See everything as new (because it is). The truth is, you have never seen the world as it is in this moment. It is entirely new and it is amazing and beautiful. Remember that YOU are a part of the beauty. You are amazing! This practice will help you feel more energized and calm at the same time. It will help you feel more connected to the world and increase your appreciation for all life and being alive. Chances are, when you arrive from your Rhythm Walk, you will feel invigorated, connected, inspired, and even more loving (and loved!).

Notice the beauty around you.

Tempo Guide (in bpm):

  • 100 - 110 Warm up & Cool Down : i.e., Beatles - Hello, Goodbye, Yellow Submarine
  • 110-125 Medium : i.e., Springsteen - Born in the USA, M. Jackson, Bad, Billy Jean
  • 125-135 Medium/Fast : i.e, Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling, Elton John - Daniel, Pinball Wizard
  • 135+ Fast : i.e., Beatles - Hard Days Night, Eight Days a Week,
  • 60 - 80 Stretching and Calming: i.e., Beatles - Let it Be, Elton John - Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me.

Creating a Walking Program:

Decide on a total walking time. At first this might be only 15 to 20 minutes, but ultimately, the greatest benefit will come to you from Walks that are around 45 minutes long. If you haven't been walking you will build up your walk times gradually, as you feel ready.

Create your program form:
Here's an example of a program that would run (walk) about 30 minutes. Make adjustments to your program as appropriate and use the Tempo Guide to choose music that works in each phase. If needed, use a computer program to create a mix that fades from one song to the next. You might need to use only a section of a song. Duple meter rhythms (2/2, 4/4) as well as duple compound rhythms (6/8, 12/8) work well for all walking phases. Triple meter rhythms (3/4 and 6/8) can work well for warm up and calming phases.


  1. Stretching (3-5 minutes)
  2. Warm up Walk (2-3 minutes)
  3. Medium Walking (4-5 minutes)
  4. Fast Walking (10-12 minutes)
  5. Cool Down Walk (4-5 minutes)
  6. Calming (3-5 minutes)

Try This: As you walk, snap your fingers to the rhythm. Tap your thighs or belly to the beat. Hum, sing, or make any vocal sounds that help connect you to the rhythm. Feel the rhythm in your body as you move forward. Connect!

DCM Courses help people connect to rhythm in a number of ways. DCM leaders are able to help design and create program that meet a number of different goal areas, including health and wellness.

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By Harriet Peterson on November 21st, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Lovely idea that should benefit a lot of people. I put together a variety of music of slightly varying but appropriate tempos and walk and dance to it on the treadmill. It makes the workout invigorating and fun even if a little embarrassing if anyone comes in and sees me singing and dancing alone in my basement!

By True Alisandre on August 9th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

This is profound!!! I’m a hand drummer, rugged walker (on mountain trails),abstract artist, yoga instructor, and writer. You might really appreciate my new book: Pictures of Health to Breathe & Move with available on Amazon.com. I have one chapter devoted to Outdoor Breaths, and the BMW of Breathe comes to mind after reading your article. I’m deeply exploring walking for fitness, inspiration, and spiritual upliftment.


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