Boxing has a lot to offer it blitzes calories, builds muscle and mends the mind. Here’s how to punch your way to a better mood.
Think the main motive forhitting a boxing ring is tocarve killer abs or honetoned arms? On the contrary– a horde of A-listers claimpacking a punch has saved them frommental meltdown. Just recently, PrinceHarry admitted that he turned to boxingto help him manage the pent-upaggression he felt following the deathof his mother, Princess Diana. And singerEllie Goulding also sought refuge in thesport to handle feelings of stress andanxiety. ‘It wasn’t about any change in myoutward appearance,’ says the star.‘It was about feeling myself get betterand stronger.’With anecdotal evidence of boxing’semotional benefits stacking up, nationalgoverning body for group exercise EMDUK is set to study the mental health plusesof combat classes such as Boxercise [atype of boxing class].
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Through our Participant Survey 2015, we know that 50per cent of people take part in groupexercise for stress relief and relaxation,’explains Chloe Devitt-Spooner, project andbusiness development manager, ‘Andwe’ve identified Boxercise as a key activitybecause the blend of boxing and fitnesstraining allows participants to let off steamin a safe, fun and social environment.’Of course, it’s not only boxing classesthat help individuals fight anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and otherhealth woes, but also any form of themartial art – from professional boxingto home workouts or sparring with apersonal trainer.
The challenge of boxinghelps people to build confidence,’adds Professor Andrew Lane, sportspsychologist at The Centre for Health &Human Performance (CHHP). ‘It gives themthe ability to manage their emotions in apotentially threatening context. You can’tlose control of your emotions when boxingbecause, if you do, you’re in a very badplace. That’s why boxers don’t get angry– they get assertive. It’s a high-intensityactivity and the hormones that power it[such as serotonin and endorphins] canalso result in feelings of happiness.’Seriously body-boosting, boxing is likemedicine for the mind. Here are the brainbenefits you can expect to reap from thesport. Because boxing isn’t only aboutlooking good.
DITCH THE DEMONS
Feeling down in the dumps isn’tuncommon. Data from the World HealthOrganisation shows that 350 million peopleworldwide suffer from depression, whetherthat’s the occasional low mood or a moresevere illness such as clinical depression.Of course, we already know that exercisein general eases depression by boostingthe release of ‘happy hormones’ such asserotonin, but boxing has extra power forfighting the gloom. ‘There are lots of goodthings about boxing that are really useful inthe treatment of depression,’ agrees Lane.‘One of the main things that helps peopleovercome negative moods is the socialsupport that boxing provides. There’s adegree of care that comes from a boxingtrainer, when they’re holding the pads andgiving encouragement. It’s tremendouslysupportive.’ Further research shows thatsocial support such as this can help toreduce feelings of depression and anxietyAnd then there are the physical benefits.‘Standing and hitting a heavy bag makesyou feel good,’ adds Roland Khounlivonginstructor at Another Space. ‘You haveto focus on technique, which puts you ina zone that detaches you from dailyworries.’ Happy days!
RELAX AND UNWIND
When it comes to relaxing, you may bemore likely to think of a spa than a boxingring, but combat sports are great forlowering stress levels. Supermodel GiseleBundchen is a fan – she claims thatpunching it out is one of the ‘most fun waysto relieve stress’. George Turner, fromPower of Boxing at Carney’s CommunityCentre agrees: ‘Boxing takes people’sminds off whatever is stressing them out.It requires absolute focus and is a sportwhere you get out what you put in becauseyou work to your own level.’ Hitting apunch bag is also a symbolic expressionof anger that can help to relieve tensionby allowing you to express anger in acontrolled environment. ‘It teaches peoplehow to control aggression,’ adds Turner.‘Anger is a natural emotion, but boxerslearn to release it in a safe and supportiveenvironment that constantly pushes theimportance of control, structure and thehonour code of boxing.’
BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE
Professional boxers seem to oozeconfidence and for good reason – combatsports can help to build self-esteem, mainlybecause they’re über tough and you’rebound to feel pretty good about havingdone a boxing workout. ‘If you’re tryingreally hard and someone, such as a coachor comrade, recognises the effort you’remaking, it creates a great sense ofachievement,’ confirms Lane. ‘Boxing isalso time-based, so those doing it have topush themselves hard to get to the endand there’s great triumph in doing that.’Boxing has such a positive effect onconfidence levels, in fact, that manytrainers claim it’s reason enough togive boxing a go. ‘I’ve seen boxingcompletely change people’s levels of selfesteem,’ adds Turner. ‘It is usually the morevulnerable and those with low confidencelevels that see the biggest impact.’ Now,where’s that punch bag?
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