Reasons Why You Should Start Boxing
Whether or not you’ve seen Rocky or Creed, you know the scenes: Standing atop steps, arms in the air, reaching up to the skies in triumph. Or perhaps, when you think of boxing, it’s the image of Muhammad Ali standing over a defeated Sonny Liston, arm pumping, muscles ripped, daring him to get up. There’s something about boxing that appeals to a different, somewhat darker, yet still hopeful side of the human psyche. Boxing has been one of the go-to fitness solutions for many, many years, and if you’re considering hitting the bags yourself, there are some great benefits, both physical and mental.
Makes Working Out Fun
For many of us, the problem with working out is it has “work” in it. You spend all day working or perhaps all night. Some work both day and night. The last thing you want to do is more work. With boxing, however, the work is more enjoyable, which helps it cross that ever-elusive threshold into the realm of “fun.” Maybe it’s the hitting. Deep inside, we like to hit things. It’s our way of reaching out into the world and touching something—on our own terms. We enjoy the thrill of deciding to physically impact a target, choosing to displace it instead of letting it displace us. We hit to move things out of the way. We hit to test our coordination. We hit just for the fun of it. We love hitting. Boxing is about using the entire body to engage in that primal yet enjoyable activity.
When you’re sparring with a partner, a whole different aspect of boxing helps encourage your mind and body to get into the exercise. It’s you against him or her. And even if you’re just hitting pads held up by your partner, there is still an element of healthy competition. Where will the next pad be positioned? Will it swing towards your head? Your neck? Which punch should you use? Jab? Uppercut? The possibilities are endless. And that’s what makes it fun: the fact that anything can happen; it’s utterly unpredictable. Contrast that with lifting weights. There can’t be an exercise any more predictable than lifting weights. The rush of endorphins and the challenge, both strength-wise and form-wise, makes it enjoyable. But seldom do people describe lifting as fun. If you’re the kind of person who needs working out to be fun, boxing may be just the thing you’re looking for.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Our cardiovascular system is both the powerhouse and the plumbing of our bodies. A basic understanding of how our cardiovascular system works will be helpful in understanding how boxing can benefit it.
As the heart beats, it circulates blood through our veins. The veins flex and adjust as the blood goes through. The heart is also flexing, expanding and contracting, in order to create enough force to get the blood through the vast, complex arrangement of veins and arteries. It takes considerable force to make this all happen. Therefore, the heart, a muscle, has to be in good shape. Like other muscles, the heart has fibers that contract and expand in order to create movement. These fibers are strengthened by work, just like a bicep, tricep, or quad. Boxing forces the heart to do this kind of work. When we get our heart pumping, the muscles inside it get a physical workout. This causes the fibers to get stronger, as well as the bonds that hold them together. When the heart is more powerful, the entire body benefits because it’s the heart that sends blood to the rest of the body. The blood has oxygen and nutrients. Without these, the rest of the body—including the brain—can not function normally. Think about when you first crawl out of bed in the morning. If someone gave you a complex problem to solve, you would likely need a few minutes to get ready to solve it. In a sleep state, the heart is not pumping as much blood to the brain because the heart rate is slower. Healthy blood helps us think. So when thinking about cardiovascular health, don’t think of it as merely something that helps you breath easier while running. It affects everything. This is why boxing is the sport of choice for many people who desire to empower their cardiovascular system.
As muscles work, they require more blood and the oxygen and nutrients held therein. That’s why our heart rate goes up during a workout. The benefit with boxing is that there are so many muscles working at the same time, the cardiovascular system is required to jump to an elevated state of functionality in a shorter period of time. This results in it getting stronger, quicker. Running is certainly an excellent exercise. However, when it comes to improving cardiovascular health, many people prefer boxing. This is because your legs, core, and upper body are all working at the same time, while the impact on the joints of your legs is far less. Actively boxing for a given period of time will burn more calories—and get your blood pumping harder—than jogging over that same time period of time.
Total Body Strength
In order to have overall effective bodies, we need to strengthen the entire thing, head to toe. This is sometimes easier said than done. Some of the best athletes in the world have bodies that are disproportioned. For instance, top long jumper, Irving Saladino, can hurl his body well over 27 feet through the air. But most men would not want a chest shaped like his, or even biceps like his, which are relatively small and understated. Mr. Saladino, an amazing athlete, has crafted a body designed to do one thing and one thing only: jump like Superman. Conversely, there are weightlifters whose upper bodies are huge and ripped, but their legs are disproportionately slim. Boxing forces participants to craft a body that is capable of a much wider range of activity. Let’s look at how this is done.
When watching a boxer, most people focus on the upper body, particularly the arms and fists. Each arm weighs a certain amount. For someone whose entire body weighs 150 pounds, their arm is going to weigh around 8 pounds. The act of throwing the arm out there is, therefore, going to take strength from areas other than the arms. Where does this come from? Everywhere else. Think of the legs as providing the base for all activity. If something moves and we’re standing up, the legs keep us stable during the process. The legs also take the force of whatever we are doing up top and send it into the ground. At the top of and above the legs is the core. Think of the core as the connecting point between the legs and upper body. Anything performed up top has to be stabilized by the legs, and it’s the core that makes sure the legs work together with the upper body to provide this stabilization. When someone throws a punch, that tossing of that “8-pound weight” is supported by the legs and core. If you were to throw a bag of oranges to a friend in a grocery store, you would notice how much easier it would be if you bend your legs as you get ready to toss it. Each punch is like that. In addition, in order to add more force to your punches, the generation of that force begins in the legs. Your core then arms take that force and put it into your fist. It then goes into your target. Furthermore, your arms are also controlled by your chest and back, and all the while your head bobs and weaves, powered by your neck.
This is why the entire body is involved in boxing. Virtually no muscle is left without a job to do during even a very simple boxing workout. In addition, the work is more than just relatively passive balancing activity, such as that which is performed by your arms while jogging. Because everything is involved in the generation of force, you get benefits from head to toe.
A Better-Looking Body
A whole-body workout is naturally going to produce an overall better-looking physique. The way we look is of course subjective. Generally speaking, what is beautiful to one person may not be attractive to another. However, according to science, that is not always the case. There are two things that have been discovered as universally attractive, regardless of where someone is from or their gender: A “V” shape from the shoulders to the waist and clear, smooth skin. No matter what you prefer as to someone’s height, race, hair color, hair style, etc., according to researchers, these are two things that, if in place, will make someone more attractive. Boxing helps with both of these. The V shape is a result of a positive proportion between shoulder width and waist width. As discussed earlier, boxing provides a great cardiovascular workout. As blood is pumped faster and faster, the burning of fat increases. This helps shrink the waistline, which is a primary storehouse for fat cells. Also, as the arms are thrown forward, the shoulders get stronger and slightly wider as well. As the arms are brought back, the trapezius muscles are activated, which also helps widen the upper part of the V.
In addition, as your skin sweats, not only are toxins expelled, but your skin is moisturized. Getting rid of toxins and moisturizing the skin helps it stay young, smooth, and fresh-looking. This is great for your complexion and smile. But boxing gives you more than just healthy skin and a V shape.
As humans, we are attracted to bodies that are overall fit. We interpret that as a sign of strength, and perhaps on at least a subconscious level, we may judge a fit body as being better capable of producing and/or protecting children. When the entire body is strengthened, people are more likely to look at you and see you as fit. And, again, the cardiovascular benefits of boxing play a huge role. Fat coats our entire bodies, only to different degrees. As people often say, “We all have a six-pack. You just can’t always see it.” This is very true. Once enough fat is burned away, the muscle definition is able to show through. Because boxing increases muscle mass while simultaneously burning fat, the results will come quicker than with many other forms of exercise.
Improved Hand-Eye Coordination
Hand-eye coordination is an undervalued skillset. We tend to think it’s good for throwing a baseball or juggling but seldom do we see it as a necessary strength. This is certainly not the case, however. We need to have good hand-eye coordination. Everyday activities that we take for granted are performed well based on how good our hand-eye coordination is. Take driving, for instance. When our eyes perceive an obstacle, moving or stationary, our hands have to steer the car in the right direction to avoid it. A delay may cause a terrible accident. Perhaps you’ve been in the car with someone who has almost struck another object or person. You may have thought, “Wow, that shouldn’t have been so close.” That could very well be a result of weak hand-eye coordination.
The importance of hand-eye coordination is emphasized even more so as we age. In order to stabilize ourselves, the hands often come into play. If the connection between what the eyes see and what the hands do isn’t well maintained, there will be more slips and falls. The advantage of boxing now is that these connections will stay stronger longer if they are improved right now. Even if you stop boxing, you will always have improved hand-eye coordination. If you know an older person who used to play baseball, you can toss them a ball, keys, a piece of fruit or anything else, and they will still be able to reach out and grab it better than the average person. Strengthening hand-eye coordination now will pay dividends long into the future.
The benefits of boxing are not limited to how it helps out bodies. Our minds also reap the rewards.
As we work out, our bodies release endorphins. This little chemical packs a big, positive punch. It literally helps us to feel better. This is partially the reason why runners feel what is known as a “runner’s high.” The brain gets flooded with endorphins and you simply feel great. The better we feel, the less stress we get.
Boxing also helps improve your overall mood. When we successfully do anything, we get a boost in self-esteem and feel like functional, efficacious people. While boxing, you are successfully doing the same thing over and over again. Whether you’re landing quality punches, hitting the bag just right, knocking and dodging the pads, or doing a well-formed crunch, each movement equates to success. Doing them repetitively reinforces a positive self-identity.
As we expend ourselves in exercise, our minds don’t have the bandwidth to dwell on the stressors in our lives. This healthy distraction is further enhanced when the exercise incorporates a skill. The skill required to box is a great distraction from the pesky little things that float around in our heads.
Punch the Bag, Not People
Stress, particularly that which is derived from anger, results in aggressive tendencies. That is why some people punch walls, lockers or even just the air when they get upset or frustrated. Doing so releases the tension created by a need to display aggression. While it’s inadvisable ever to punch a wall, punching a punching bag is definitely preferable to punching a person. There is also a physical reaction that occurs when we release aggression.
You may have seen people engaged in certain sporting activities punch the air, their chests, or aggressively high five their teammates. These actions have nothing to do with performing the discipline of their sport better. However, like other forms of exercise, it releases a shot of endorphins, and as a result, this makes you feel good. As you punch the punching bag, while frustrated or upset, you are redefining how your body interprets that stress. The stress becomes the source of a good feeling—the release of endorphins–instead of a negative one. This can help you completely restructure how your mind processes stress.
Whether you’re interested in boxing for physical or mental reasons, the list of benefits is impressive. In addition to all this, you also start to feel better about yourself. In the fight of life, we all want to be “battle- ready.” Developing literal fighting skills makes us feel more ready to take on challenges that don’t require our fists as well. As you walk down the street, formerly scary figures will be less intimidating, and every day physical challenges will be dismissed as trivial obstacles. Considering how boxing benefits your cardiovascular health and overall fitness, your local gym can be your all-in-one solution to self-improvement.