We all know the physical effects of boxing. The HIIT style workout helps fat loss, bingo wings become a thing of the past and our bodies adapt to the demands we place on it making us fitter and able to recover more quickly. The physiological and aesthetic benefits are widely appreciated, but what about the psychological effects? In an age where we are waking up to the importance of mental wellbeing why does boxing standout? Here are five reasons why I believe boxing benefits the grey matter:
It’s a stress buster. When we exercise we are actually subjecting ourselves to a low-level form of stress by raising our heart rate and triggering a burst of hormonal changes. By subjecting our body to the stress of exercise enough, it will eventually get better at handling the rest of life's stressors. Boxing is also a focused way of channelling any lingering anger or worry into something concentrated and productive. Plus nothing beats punching something (even if it’s the air in shadow boxing) pretending it’s your arch enemy’s face.
It boosts your confidence. Low self-esteem about our bodies and the way we look can have a negative effect on all areas of our lives. As we reap the physical benefits of exercise we begin to feel good about ourselves and our progress. But boxing will not only make you like how you look, it will also make you feel stronger, more independent, and more confident. As you improve your technique and fitness the feeling of being more physically capable will filter into your confidence in other areas. Suddenly you feel you can overcome hurdles life throws at you. It makes you feel like a badass – plus you develop the strength and skills to back this up. Boxing instils a sense of achievement, building confidence and self-esteem.
It makes you happy. There's nothing like a boost in confidence to increase overall happiness but exercise also releases Dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for feelings of pleasure and happiness. Some studies suggest that as we age, we lose our stores of dopamine so often turn to exercise to boost production. Perhaps that explains why hordes of us are finding boxing in adulthood and getting hooked (pun intended). It’s exhausting, but the physical and mental exertion can leave you feeling empowered.
It eases anxiety. The immediate mood boost from exercise is followed by longer-term relief. Boxing can help to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression by focusing the mind and body in the present moment, away from ruminating thoughts or worries. It provides a source of distraction and workouts provide a controlled and safe environment to release any frustration or anger.
It trains your brain. A boxing workout is a lot more strategic than throwing a few random punches. There are limitless combinations which, when put together in sequence, are like a well-choreographed dance routine. A seamless performance with precision and good technique takes a lot of practice, concentration and perseverance, but once mastered it's a skill that will affect everything from your balance to your reflexes. Boxing requires coordination, a skill which will increase with time and practice and translate to other sports and everyday activities.
So what are you waiting for? Jab, cross, hook, try a boxing workout at home and prepare to feel good!
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