PALM DESERT, Calif. - With the high school football season starting this week, marching bands have been an essential part of the Friday night festivities. The musicians spend hours practicing their and perfecting their halftime show. According to one study, they work just as hard as the football players on the gridiron.
"We have an 8-minute show and it is like running five miles with a straw in your mouth," N. Guy Lake, band director of Palm Desert High School, said. "That is the equivalent of doing one marching band show."
A 2011 study that was presented to the American College of Sports Medicine said "The physical challenges and demands of participating in competitive marching band is similar to athletes who compete in sports". It surveyed members of an Indiana marching band in which its members reported "fatigue, muscle soreness, and injuries commonly associated with competitive sports and athletics."
Lake said he has seen his own students pull muscles. The shows they do require strength and endurance. He said its a challenge when his students have to move around the field and play their instruments.
"Contras, which are the silver tubas that you see on the marching band field, weigh 50 pounds," he said. "A student has to hold that on their shoulder and balance it while marching at a 180 beats per minute, which means their feet move 180 steps for 60 seconds."
Giovanni Pucci, drum major with the Palm Desert High School marching band, said the band practices were demanding both physically and mentally.
"I would definitely say marching band is one of the hardest activities I've ever had to do," he said.