The American Heart Association calls for chest compressions to be given at a rate of 100 per minute in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). "Stayin' Alive" almost perfectly matches that, with 103 beats per minute.
CPR is a lifesaving technique involving chest compressions alone or with mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing. It is used in emergencies such as cardiac arrest in which a person's breathing or heartbeat has stopped.
CPR can triple survival rates, but some people are reluctant to do it in part because they are unsure about the proper rhythm for chest compressions. But research has shown many people do chest compressions too slowly during CPR.
In a small study headed by Dr. David Matlock of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, listening to "Stayin' Alive" helped 15 doctors and medical students to perform chest compressions on dummies at the proper speed.
Five weeks after practicing with the music playing, they were asked to perform CPR again on dummies by keeping the song in their minds, and again they kept up a good pace.
"The theme 'Stayin' Alive' is very appropriate for the situation," Matlock said in a telephone interview on Thursday. "Everybody's heard it at some point in their life. People know the song and can keep it in their head."
The findings will be presented this month at a meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians in Chicago.
(Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by David Storey)