Whether treadmills bore you to tears or you hate the stigma of weightlifting, consider martial arts as an alternative. Martial arts are about more than just fighting; they’re about self-discipline, honor, respect, and developing mental and physical strength. The best part? If you don’t like one, then there’s hundreds of others you can try.
Benefit # 1: Whole-Body Workouts
Martial arts are a complex form of exercise that engages your entire body. Through a combination of slow practice forms and dynamic sparring, you challenge your strength, speed, and muscle control. If you choose to participate in multiple disciplines, you can expand these benefits to more parts of your body. For example, Kali is a weapons-based style that focuses on upper body movement, but Taekwondo is a hand-to-hand style that emphasizes lower body strength. Whether you participate in one martial art or several, you will experience greater physical strength, cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility.
Benefit # 2: Balance and Agility
Balance and agility, though underrated, are as critical as endurance and strength. Martial arts integrate agility-training regimens that train your body to make faster, more precise, and more efficient movements. Contemporary strength-based exercises emphasize muscle bulk over practical movement, necessitating extensive stretching to achieve a normal range of motion. Martial arts movements work on strength and flexibility at the same time, resulting in above-average range of motion.
Participating in martial arts also improves your balance by strengthening your core and minor supporting muscles. This balance extends from the training mat into other facets of your life, and can help prevent injuries later on. A strong core can also help prevent common complaints of aging like back pain.
Benefit #3: Developing Practical Skills
Strength gained from using free and machine weights often has limited practicality, unless you’re a mover for a living. Treadmills and stationary bikes are a little better, but not much. However, hand-to-hand martial arts like Karate and Jiu-Jitsu equip you with sharp reflexes, cardiovascular fitness, and self-defense training — skills useful when threatened. Knowing that you can defend yourself and those around you naturally boosts self-confidence and promotes inner peace while pursuing daily activities. If you work in security or law enforcement, or live in a high-crime area, knowing the course of action to take when threatened comes in especially helpful.
Benefit #4: Motivation
One can only spend so much time working out with free weights and treadmills before burning out. The cyclic nature of these activities makes it difficult to retain your motivation—thus why it’s common for cardio equipment in a gym to have TVs nearby. Most people stop going to the gym once their workouts become boring.
Martial arts have a higher retention rate because it’s not just a workout—you’re learning, too. HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts), for example, is appealing because it teaches students how to use a variety of weapons like German longsword and British military saber, while also teaching European history. Furthermore, martial arts offer a continual path of progression, so there’s always something you can improve at. And at the end of the day, your teammates will become your greatest source of inspiration, encouragement, and support.
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