How the Bee Gees can save your life during a cardiac arrest

The Bee Gees’ disco smash hit ‘Stayin’ Alive is more appropriately titled than anyone could have realized. Did you know that this 1977 song’s beat is apparently the ideal speed at which to perform chest compressions in cardiac arrest victims? Having practised cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with the song, research study participants could maintain the ideal rhythm weeks later by simply thinking about the tune as they performed the procedure.

Research from the University of Illinois, presented during an American College of Emergency Physicians’ scientific assembly in Chicago, found that at 103 beats per minute, the song Stayin’ Alive is almost the same pace as the recommended 100 chest compressions per minute for hands-only CPR.  

Dr. David Matlock of the University of Illinois, an author of this study, explained that many people are put off performing CPR chest compressions as they are not sure about keeping up the correct rhythm. But CPR can more than double the chance of survival after cardiac arrest, if performed properly.

The last time I took a basic CPR course, I was taught to do 20 chest compressions followed by three breaths blown into the patient’s mouth.  Or was that 15 compressions followed by two breaths? Who can remember, especially during the extreme stress of a real-life medical emergency? 

So it was good news when organizations like the American Heart Association decided a few years ago that hands-only CPR — rapid, deep presses on the victim’s chest until help arrives — works just as well as standard CPR for sudden cardiac arrest in most adults.

“You only have to do two things. Call 911 and push hard and fast on the middle of the person’s chest,” said Dr. Michael Sayre, an emergency medicine professor who headed the AHA committee that made the recommendation. Hands-only CPR calls for uninterrupted chest presses — about 100 a minute — until paramedics take over or an automated external defibrillator is available to restore a normal heart rhythm.

Here in Canada, however, both St. John Ambulance (our CPR/first aid instruction experts) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommend that Canadians continue “to take the complete CPR training program to gain invaluable lifesaving skills”.

The complete CPR technique, which includes both chest compressions and rescue breathing, is recommended for infants, children and in cases where the cardiac arrest was not witnessed or was due to special circumstances such as near-drowning.  But for bystanders confronted with a cardiac arrest who have not been trained or are reluctant to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, hands-only CPR is recommended. 

And isn’t it better to do something than to stand by and do nothing?


Experts hope that bystanders will now be more willing to jump in and help if they see someone suddenly collapse. Hands-only CPR is simpler and easier to remember, and it also removes a big barrier for those like me who are skittish about the mouth-to-mouth breathing part. Watch this Heart and Stroke Foundation video.

Watch this Red Cross video of compression-only CPR at work, or learn CPR at home with the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s CPR Anytimeprogram.

See also:

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And don’t forget: “Aaah!  Aaah! Aaah! Aaah! – Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive…”


13 thoughts on “How the Bee Gees can save your life during a cardiac arrest

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  8. So fun to watch and listen to the Beegees. I agree, those white pants are mesmerizing. Love the poofy shiny jacket too, right? Nostalgic ribbing aside, what a great song to use for CPR — everybody knows it front to back which is pretty amazing when you think it’s been around for 30+ years.

    Thank you for this, Carolyn. Well done – this could be a life-saving reminder for somebody.


  9. Thanks for this reminder about CPR. Thanks too for the memories – the white teeth and the white pants are almost too much for my heart to take!
    Love those Bee Gee’s!


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