Monday, August 1, 2011

Strike One: How Martial Arts and Boxing Can Improve Your Life

This isn't exactly a chance to fight Apollo Creed for the heavyweight championship of the world, but it is an opportunity to work on cardiovascular endurance, speed, coordination, bone density, and self-esteem.

Let's talk about each of these life-changing benefits:

Cardiovascular Endurance
It cannot be stressed enough that the best way to prevent the onset of obesity and all of its negative attributes is by engaging in regular exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes each day, five days every week. Regular endurance training enables the heart to become more efficient at pumping blood, even if there are no noticeable signs of physical improvement. The heart gets stronger with every endurance workout. Here's the great thing about martial arts and boxing- lots of continual movement equals anywhere from moderate to intense exercise.

Speed and Coordination
As a conditioning term, speed refers to how quickly you can get from point A to point B without injuring yourself. That clearly has some practical implications as well. Moving quickly increases response time to situations, improves agility, and reduces stress on joints. For example, people with a very long and slow stride are more likely to have low back, knee and foot pain from extended contact time with the ground alone. Stronger, shorter, faster strides are better for your legs and easier on your muscles (which means they can perform longer as well). One such exercise used in boxing and martial arts is jumping rope. Regular, repeated motion of jumping can be steady, changing speeds, or adjusting footwork for desired challenge and results. Read more about jumping rope

Bone Density
Wolff's Law, discovered by Julius Wolff in the 19th Century, states that the body adjusts to meet whatever challenges it faces. The converse of this law is also true- the body eliminates what it does not need. As a result, increased activity stimulates muscle and bone growth. Sedentary people have demonstrated the opposite: muscle atrophy and bone density loss (even osteoporosis in both men and women). The most significant part of the research that has continued since Wolff's time is that bone density and muscle hypertrophy occur in the places placed under most stress. Some current technology has shown tremendous bone density gain as a result of introducing external vibrations into the body. Boxing and martial arts incorpoate punching, kicking, and jumping that involve striking a surface, thereby generating vibration. Good vibrations- the kind that improve muscle response and bone density!

Signifcant research has gone into studying the psychological benefit of martial arts and boxing training. You can read one such study here. The greatest benefit is when the art is practiced in tandem with self-awareness training and being guided by a positive role model such as a coach or sensei. The environment was also non-competitive, allowing a person to reflect on their own self worth and not have to look towards someone else outside of themselves for inspiration.

There are many benefits to be found in different types of training depending on one's training goals. Martial art and boxing are an effective method of building strength, endurance, and self-esteem when conducted in a positive environment that encourages challenging oneself to be better. Check out this video about Israeli Mui Thai Boxer, Uriel ben-Homo
I teach one martial arts/kickboxing class every Thursday evening from 6:00-6:30pm in Rockville, MD
Email me at to find out more.