The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Do Military Chants Help Running? - The Jody Calls

When I was in the military, we ran. A lot. Every day. I love to run fast. When we ran, we sang. What did we sing? What they told us to sing - How much we loved to run. How much we loved everything about the military. Why? It kept us from saying what we were thinking. Military cadences have long been used for physical training. These are the Jody Calls.

A drill sergeant drills recruits in the U.S. Army.

The origin of the Jody Calls is usually given around World War II, but chanting, sea shanties, group mantras and hymns, and others have been known for centuries. It is generally thought that group unison music reduces perceived exertion, allowing greater effort toward the common goal.

I am a career physiology researcher in extreme environments. That means I spend much time directly testing humans to see what they can do, then how to make them better at it. Doing experimental and research work personally, makes it easier to know if what you hear about fitness is true, or just another of countless repeated myths. Even doctors learn from books that are often not primary sources, just repeated by someone else who learned it in school, repeated from a non-primary source.

In the military, and since then, the Jody Calls interested me. I wanted to know if chanting and singing really make the work of running easier, or just make it seem easier, or perhaps even use more oxygen and is actually more work than running without singing. I did many laboratory experiments on Jody calls.

Some of the experiments I conducted involved running troops on treadmills at different speeds, with specially fitted masks, so that they could chant into the mask, or just breathe regularly for control tests. I collected their expired air (what they breathed out) and analyzed it for oxygen usage and carbon dioxide production, a measure of the work of running. I compared oxygen usage with chanting and without.

Why are U.S. military chants called Jody Calls? There are many stories, usually involving a civilian character named Jody or Jodie, who stayed home when you left… you left… you left… right… left….

Below, hopefully sound file will appear. Turn your computer sound on, and click the arrow to listen to one stereotype call of the U.S. Marine Corps:

More on military cadences, what I found in my experimental work, and perceived exertion to come in future posts.

Posts about Fitness Myths - click Myths.
Related post on Perceived Exertion -
Fast Fitness - Figuring Heart Rate Training Range.

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.