Not many would think to hit the marching band rehearsal field when they decide to get in shape, but Calgary Stampede Showband members Logan Clarke (clarinet) and Dylan Rutledge (snare drum) told us that marching band has been a big part of their healthy lifestyle and increased fitness over the past year. If you’re interested in seeing proof that the marching arts give a serious workout, this recent Drum Corps International blog post shows some seriously impressive before-and-after photos. Wondering how marching band members defy stereotypes and get in great shape? Here are five ways that we think marching band is better than your local gym for getting fit:

1. You get to be cultured AND get a great workout

Most students join marching band because they enjoy playing their instruments and love performing, but few anticipate how physically demanding it will be. The Showband works hard year round: it plays challenging music for its summer field show and catchy pop music hits for parades, has indoor percussion and winter guard productions, and has an award-winning concert band program. Plus, members get to travel to some pretty amazing places, like Brazil and Japan. Now THAT’S balance.

2. You won’t know that you are getting in shape

Logan and Dylan didn’t intend to get fit when they joined marching band, but constantly hustling back to their spots during rehearsals and walking at fast paces from performance to performance is a surprisingly rigorous cardio workout.  Plus, holding up instruments for the duration of rehearsals and performances (Dylan’s drum weighs about 45 lbs!) helps members to become strong and toned. According to Logan, it’s easy to get in shape and stay there when you have another goal in mind. Over the season, she says she saw the whole band get faster and stronger. Dylan told us, “The greatest benefit I found from rehearsing was working towards something I loved and getting better at it with each rep. At the beginning of the year I found my self having to catch my breath and sweating a lot from the exertion required to march; the physical strain was difficult at times but by the end of the year I was feeling great and doing long reps in the hot sun actually started to feel good”.

Dylan Rutledge3. You’ll eat healthy, especially when it isn’t convenient

With an extremely busy schedule during the 10-day Stampede, Showband members eat healthy meals and snacks organized by the Stampede Band Committee and parent volunteers. Even when they have to pack their own lunches, students quickly learn that they need to eat balanced meals and stay hydrated to make it through long rehearsals. Dylan made a decision to be healthy about a year ago, dramatically increasing his water intake and replacing processed foods with whole foods. In just a few weeks he found that he had lost excess weight, his self-confidence soared, and band rehearsals were less of an exertion.

Logan Clarke4. Rehearsals are more fun than treadmills and weights

Your average treadmill routine can get stale pretty quickly, but marching band rehearsal keeps members on their toes! Showband members rehearse more than 800 hours each year, most of that playing their instruments and marching. My Fitness Pal, an app/website that tracks calories consumed and burned, tells us that marching while playing an instrument (walking) burns 224 calories/hour, while marching rapidly burns an unexpected 398 calories/hour. Between instruments, props, choreography, and marching, Showband rehearsals and performances are serious (not to mention regular) work-outs. Plus, members are encouraged to run and lift weights outside of rehearsal to help with endurance during performances. Drum Corps International even provides a pre-season work-out guide  to help aspiring marchers to prepare for the rigors of drum corps.

5. 120 of your best friends are there to support you

Consider it the biggest and best group exercise activity around!

Logan Clarke is 17 years old and just finished her first year as a member of the Stampede Showband. Dylan Rutledge is 19 years old and is currently in his fourth year with the Showband. Dylan plans to audition for Crossmen Drum and Bugle Corps based in Texas later this year.