An effective way to do chest compressions

October 5, 2015

Don't know how fast to perform chest compressions? Make sure that you're familiar with the 1977 Bee Gees hit, "Stayin' Alive." It has 103 beats per minute, close enough to the 100-per-minute ideal rhythm for chest compressions recommended for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

An effective way to do chest compressions

Staying alive

Researchers played the song "Stayin' Alive" to 15 doctors and medical students learning CPR on dummies, and told them to time their chest compressions to the beat. Five weeks later they were tested without the music, but asked simply to recall the "Stayin' Alive" rhythm while performing compressions. They achieved impressive average compression rates of 109 to 113 beats per minute.

Many people hesitate to undertake CPR because they're not sure of the rhythm they should follow for chest compressions. But performing CPR properly can triple the survival rate after a heart attack — so "Stayin' Alive" could help someone to do just that.


  1.  Kneel beside the victim and, if necessary, roll him or her onto the back. Find the lower end of the ribcage and run your first two fingers inwards until you find the bottom of the breastbone. Place your index finger at this point as a marker. Place the heel of your other hand on the breastbone just above this finger and maintain this position.
  2. Move your other hand on top of the first and interlace the fingers of both hands. Lean forwards, with your shoulders over the patient.
  3. Keeping your arms straight, push down, aiming to press the lower breastbone down by at least two inches, and continue at a compression rate of at least 100 compressions per minute.
  4. Release the pressure without removing your hands.
  5. If you are unwilling or unable to give mouth-to-mouth ventilation, continue with compression-only CPR until EMS specialists take over.


Resuscitation is easy — if you know how to do it. So why not find out?

The Canadian Red Cross offers CPR training and certification in communities throughout Canada. To find a class near you, or to schedule a class for several people, go to Once you're trained, any CPR certificates you earn are valid for one year.

Whether you take a training course or not, though, if you ever find yourself needing to perform chest compressions only do so until a trained EMS specialist arrives.

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