The 103 beats-per-minute tempo of 1990s dance classic Macarena is the perfect speed for performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), a new study shows – and knowing that could end up saving a life.

During a test of 164 students, those told to hum the Macarena in their heads ended up hitting the right tempo much more often than those who weren't given any guidance.

Whether or not the Spanish pop tune by Los Del Río fits in with your musical tastes, being able to stick to the recommended rate of 100-120 chest compressions per minute can be crucial for the effectiveness of CPR, the team of researchers says.

macarena cpr 2(Rawpixel Ltd/iStock)

"[It] is the most famous song in Spain, and probably one of the most well known in the world, and the beat of the chorus of the song is 103 bpm, a correct rhythm for performing the rate of compressions," one of the team, Enrique Carrero Cardenal from the University of Barcelona in Spain, told the Guardian.

Almost all the students involved in the study had been taught CPR before, and were asked to administer it to a dummy for a period of two minutes. Some were told to run through Macarena in their heads, some were given a metronome smartphone app to use (set to the right tempo), and some weren't given any advice at all.

Those who used the app did the best of all, hitting the right CPR tempo for 91 percent of their compressions, on average. For the Macarena group, that rate was 74 percent.

Both were way ahead of the control group given no guidance – students in that group only managed the right tempo 24 percent of the time.

The app wins out then, though students in this group did take longer to perform their first compression. If you don't have such an app handy, take your mind back to the 90s (or turn to the internet for musical help).

If you absolutely can't stand Macarena but really do want to get your emergency first aid right, other tracks with the right bpm include Rock DJ by Robbie Williams, Your Body by Christina Aguilera, and… Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major.

However, compression depth is also important – and none of the study participants were able to get the right depth of 5-6 centimetres (1.97-2.36 inches) during the test.

That's perhaps because the volunteers were concentrating solely on getting the timings of their CPR exercises right.

The technique can be a lifesaver in several situations, including a heart attack and a near-drowning. It's intended to keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain even after breathing or a heartbeat has stopped.

Knowing the right timings and pressures for CPR can make a big difference to how much help it can be to someone in cardiac arrest, so we're glad to take on any pointers – even if they involve a rather cheesy earworm of a song.

"Both the app and using mental memory aid Macarena improved the quality of chest compressions by increasing the proportion of adequate rate but not the depth of compressions," say the researchers.

"The metronome app was more effective but with a significant onset delay."

The research has been presented at the European Anaesthesia Congress 2018 in Denmark.