Researchers have been making people listen to Nellie the Elephant in an attempt to save lives.
The children’s tune is often used during CPR training to help people deliver the recommended 100 chest compressions a minute.
And the team of researchers found people who listened to the song were more likely to give compressions at the right tempo than those who did not.
But the study, published on the website of the British Medical Journal, also found those listening to the music were less likely to push down deep enough.
The researchers, from the Universities of Birmingham, Coventry and Hertfordshire, and the West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust, therefore recommended that Nellie the Elephant should no longer be used as a training aid.
The study, which looked at 130 volunteers being trained in the life saving technique, found listening to the song That’s the Way (I like it) was even less helpful.
While 12% of participants achieved a compression rate of 95-105 with no music, 32% achieved a good rate listening to Nellie, and 9% achieved the desired rate listening to That’s the Way.
The proportion of participants doing compressions at the right depth dipped from 24% with no music to 14% for Nellie and just 11% with That’s the Way.
The team said new research was urgently required to find songs which could improve training and suggested Another One Bites the Dust or Under Pressure, by Queen, or Quit Playing Games (With my Heart) by the Backstreet Boys.
Co-author Professor Malcolm Woollard, of Coventry University, said the song suggestions were “a little bit tongue-in-cheek” but the research was serious and would hopefully also encourage people to train in CPR.
He said: “It’s real data. We know without a shadow of a doubt that listening to Nellie the Elephant increases the proportion of people giving chest compressions at the right rate. Unfortunately it also decreases the proportion giving compressions at the right depth, so we cannot recommend it.
“However, it may be that there are other songs that improve both the rate and the depth.”
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is an important lifesaving technique. A bystander who starts CPR one to two minutes before emergency services arrive can double survival rates from 21% to 43%.
But estimating 100 beats per minute can be difficult so trainers often recommend mentally singing the nursery tune Nellie the Elephant because of its appropriate rhythm and tempo.
The volunteers, who were staff and students at Coventry University, were given a brief demonstration on a resuscitation mannequin, with one minute to practise while listening to a metronome.
Participants were then asked to perform three sequences of one minute of continuous chest compressions accompanied by no music, repeated choruses of Nellie the Elephant by Little Bear, and That’s the Way (I Like It) by KC and the Sunshine Band.
Different individuals were told to perform the sequences in a different order.
Researchers suggested Nellie might be a “poor motivator for force and depth of compression” because it was a children’s song.