At first glance, martial arts can seem intimidating, complicated, or inaccessible if you aren’t a highly trained and experienced athlete. However, everyone can benefit from martial arts, and research increasingly supports the idea that learning and regularly practicing martial arts––whether it is tai chi, karate, aikido, or many of the other martial arts disciplines can do wonders for your body both inside and out.
Martial arts is a fantastic way to participate in a challenging, dynamic, and exciting fitness routine. It can be learned online or at a gym, practiced anywhere, and quality martial arts equipment is widely available online, and there are many amazing health benefits to be enjoyed no matter if you are a black belt or attempting your very first workouts.
You’ll Enjoy a Total Body Workout
Martial arts works the body from all angles, so compared to activities like running or cycling, which primarily work the legs, martial arts will give you the opportunity to enjoy a more well-rounded workout that uses all of your major muscle groups.
There’s nothing wrong with activities like running or cycling, though when you only work one major muscle group you risk creating imbalances in the body, which can throw off your posture and alignment, and create tightness and overuse injuries that will put stress on your muscles, bones, and joints. A full-body workout will ensure that you aren’t overtraining and overtaxing particular muscle groups, which will help protect you from injuries down the line.
Gain Strength and Cardiovascular Health
It sounds counterintuitive, but the best way to improve your heart health is to participate in exercises that stress your heart: this means high-intensity workouts like martial arts. Strenuous and challenging activities will help your body regulate your heart rate and blood pressure and are associated with decreased risk of heart disease. Martial arts often require compound movements, which will also tax your muscles and build strength.
Increased Range of Flexibility
It’s very likely that martial arts will challenge your body to move in new and unfamiliar ways. While you are learning how to evade your opponent, perform a particular jab or kick, or mastering a new stance, you’ll have to get used to putting your body into new positions and shapes.
Your flexibility will develop alongside your strength in order to help you perform these moves, and this newfound flexibility will go a long way in helping you put less stress on your body both during exercise and in your daily life. Benefits of improved flexibility include better coordination and increased injury prevention, which becomes especially important as we age.
Improved Mental Focus and Mood
Exercise increases the number of endorphins—hormones that reduce pain and increase pleasure—that flow through the body, so a regular martial arts routine is one way to get your regular good mood fix. Among one of the most important benefits of endorphins is that they help with stress relief, so it is important in today’s busy world to find a workout that you can stick to.
Exercise of any kind is also known to improve focus and concentration, so even when you are off the mat and out of the gym, you’ll be reaping the benefits of your workout at school or at the office. Martial arts requires tremendous attention and discipline, and by practicing these skills during your training, you’ll be better at applying them in any situation, whether it is reading a book or completing a difficult project at work.
Faster Reflexes and Better Coordination
Martial arts makes plenty of demands on your reflexes, and you’ll surely find that the more you practice, the better your reflexes become. Fast reflexes will help you excel in the martial arts exercise of your choice, but also in other sports, particularly those that involve hand-eye coordination. And there is no doubt that quick reflexes and faster reaction times are certainly beneficial in daily activities, like driving a car. After practicing martial arts, you’ll feel lighter, quicker, stronger, and more graceful as you move through your day.
Jordan Bannon is a freelance writer who specializes in health and fitness. As an advocate for clean lifestyles, he serves as a consultant for top fitness brands to promote wellness in all communities.