Pablo Cassals, Nadia Boulanger, Arturo Toscanini, and Leopold Stokowski all conducted major orchestras into their nineties. Walter Damrosch, Arthur Fiedler, and Serge Kousevitsky conducted into their eighties. Nobody knows why many orchestra conductors live longer than people in other professions, but the very act of conducting may be the reason.
Your heart is a muscle. To strengthen any muscle, you have to exercise it against increasing resistance. When you swing your arms, your arm muscles contract and squeeze the veins near them to pump extra blood toward the heart. When your arm muscles relax, they allow blood to fill the veins near them. This alternate contracting and relaxing of the arm muscles pumps extra blood toward the heart. Your heart then must contract against a greater amount of blood inside its chambers, so it does this with a faster beat and with more force, and this makes the heart muscle stronger.
To strengthen your heart, you have to exercise vigorously enough to increase your pulse rate at least 20 beats a minute above your resting pulse rate. Conducting an orchestra can drive your pulse rate over a hundred beats a minute. You conduct with your arms and during exercise, arm muscles require extra blood to supply them with oxygen. Your heart has to work two and a half times as hard to pump blood through your arms as it does to pump the same amount of blood through your legs. The blood vessels in your arms are smaller and offer a greater resistance against the flow of blood. The odds are that you will never conduct a major orchestra, but you can turn on the radio, pick up a stick, wave your arms around and become fit. Try to work up to the point where you can conduct for thirty minutes three times a week. This is a good activity for cross training with another sport that stresses primarily your leg muscles, such as walking, running, dancing or pedaling a bicycle.
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