A for Athlete



NY Times Feature [1][]

For the audience, a symphony performance is about relaxing to beautiful music. But for the conductor, it’s a workout. Most conductors wave their arms, jump and break a sweat during every performance.

Inspired by the aerobic workout he gets from leading an orchestra, long-time conductor David Dworkin has created “Conductorcise,” an exercise program that has participants waving batons and sweating to the really-oldies by Beethoven and Mozart.

“There’s such energy in classical music,” said Mr. Dworkin, 73, a retired Metropolitan Opera clarinetist and former conductor of the New Jersey and Vermont symphonies, among others. “I try to translate the musical energy into physical energy.”

While there’s no scientific research on the health benefits of Conductorcise, studies do show that physical activity that boosts heart rate is good for you. Conductorcise also works out the upper body, which is often neglected by walkers and runners. And it is low impact and requires no skill, making it easy for people who are older, very overweight or chair bound. Mr. Dworkin teaches his students some basic conducting techniques based on the beat of the music, such as the “2-4″ and the “4-4,” among others. But the real goal is for participants to feel the beat and wave their arms to the music. “I put a baton in your hand, but you don’t need to be precise,” he noted.

Mr. Dworkin has hosted warm-ups before American Heart Association walk-a-thons and conducts classes all over the country, including workshops in nursing homes. On Sunday, he will host two large classes at the Forever Young: 50-Plus Expo in New York City. You can see a video on his Web site.

How much of a workout you end up getting from Conductorcise all depends on the music. For high-energy conducting, Mr. Dworkin suggests “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa. The first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or the “Thunder and Lightning Polka” by Johann Strauss are also heart rate-boosting options. For a cool-down or meditative moment, he recommends the middle movement of Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto.