Like any sort of physical activity, martial arts has significant benefits both in mind and body. Getting active and moving is important for people of any age, and it leads to a more fulfilling and healthy life. The helpfulness of martial arts doesn't end there, however. In this article, we'll be taking a look at how martial arts and wellness intertwine - with a focus on the benefits of the sport for your physical and mental well-being.
These benefits are probably the most obvious. It's generally well known that physical activity is good for you, but how exactly does practicing martial arts lead to improvements in your health?
Martial arts is a combination of strength training and cardiovascular conditioning. However, while increasing in strength is important, the benefits of the sport on the heart, arteries, and veins are innumerous.
The only real way to improve cardiovascular conditioning is through activities that stress the heart. This may seem counter intuitive, but the heart is a muscle, and muscle gets stronger through subjecting it to progressively heavier stress.
The physical demands of martial arts are undeniable, so it only makes sense that it would improve your body - and especially your heart.
We mentioned the importance of cardiovascular conditioning in the section above, but we also don't want to diminish the benefits of gaining strength through martial arts. Fighting is a very physical sport, and even without any additional strength training you could start to see some real changes in your body.
A regular martial arts workout can put stress on all sorts of different muscles and - as we mentioned above - stress is good for muscle growth.
Tying in with the section above, martial arts is an excellent way to lose weight. Weight loss, with very few exceptions, is a simple math equation: If you eat more calories than you burn, you'll gain weight. If you burn more calories than you eat, you'll lose weight. Simple as that!
However, weight loss is often anything but simple. Adding physical activity like martial arts can burn a good amount of calories and give dieters a little more wiggle room with their calorie intake. In fact, an hour long session with martial arts can burn up to 720 calories for someone who weighs around 150 pounds. That's pretty significant! (http://www.fitnessforweightloss.com/how-many-calories-do-i-burn-doing-martial-arts/)
The average calorie needs of both men and women based on activity level are listed below. An age group of 21-25 was selected for brevity's sake, but you can find a full list from the USDA here: https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/usda_food_patterns/EstimatedCalorieNeedsPerDayTable.pdf
Estimated Calorie Needs (21-25 Years)
A combination of a healthy diet and a good exercise like martial arts will lead to significant weight loss over time.
In order to be a good martial artist, your reflexes have to be on point. Reacting to your opponent and anticipating their next move is a big part of making sure you come on top at the end of the fight. Studies have shown that regular participation in martial arts can lead to permanent increases in reaction times and reflexes.
See Research of Martial Arts by Shifu Jonathan Bluestein here:
While the physicality of martial arts is obvious by default, there are also a number of mental health benefits that can make a big difference in a person's journey towards wellness.
Any sort of cardiovascular activity is a great way to reduce stress, and martial arts is no exception. There's something to be said for working out tension and aggression in a satisfying and productive way.
After a long day at work, an hour practicing martial arts may be just the ticket to ensure you go home feeling refreshed and relaxed.
Many people suffer from depression or other mood disorders. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that over 16 million Americans suffer from depression. And even for those of us who just feel "down" occasionally, exercise has a proven track record of lifting people's mood. Those that exercise regularly report less sadness and higher overall contentment with their life.
It's tempting to turn to medication when you hit a rough spot, but exercise is generally just as effective. Even if you're already taking medication, adding martial arts to your routine is an excellent way to give your mood a much needed boost.
This benefit is especially targeted towards kids, but it's useful for people of any age. Martial arts generally provides a structured environment with rules and regulations. A lot of sports also have a ranking - whether in the form of "belts" or otherwise. Enrolling your child in martial arts adds another period of structured time to the day, and the lessons and respect learned from martial arts will extend far past the end of the session.
A large part of martial arts is learning the physical movements behind the sport. However, a lot of these disciplines have an origin in traditional Asian culture. Taking the time to reflect on one's inner self, meditate, and focus on the task at hand - whatever it may be - is an important aspect of many martial arts.
You may find that you carry this focus with you out into the rest of your life, adding yet another lasting benefit to practicing martial arts.
Community and Socialization
Martial arts by default is not usually a solo sport. You generally need at least one other person to spar or fight with. By joining a class or a league, you'll build lasting social connections and friendships that can really make a big difference in wellness and general contentment.
Isolation is a big trigger for negative mood states, so surrounding yourself with other people who enjoy your hobby is a great way to stay upbeat and content.
Involving yourself in any productive hobby will make a person feel better about themselves, but this is especially true for martial arts. Whether it's from a predictable structure or the confidence that you have the skills to defend yourself in a pinch, practicing martial arts is a great way to give a boost to your self-confidence.
Improve Your Life With Martial Arts
It's clear that there are numerous benefits to practicing martial arts. Many martial arts go back thousands of years and have acted as a hobby, discipline, and method of self-defense for millions of people over the years. Whether a person is a child, adult, or elder, taking up martial arts will lead to great payoffs in physical and mental health, as well as improvements in overall quality of life.
The only way to tell if martial arts is right for you is to give it a try. Do some research on the many variations offered, and find a local class that looks interesting to you. You have nothing to lose!