7 Reasons Martial Arts are Good for Mental Health
It’s no secret that practicing martial arts is a great way to strengthen your body and improve your physical fitness. Whether you’re training in Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu, traditional martial arts like karate and taekwondo, or pushing yourself in an intense cardio kickboxing class, you’re definitely in for a serious workout that will leave you tired, sweaty, and feeling awesome.
But physical fitness is just one of the health benefits you can look forward to — martial arts have also been proven to have a huge impact on mental health! Here are just a few ways you might experience a boost to your mental and emotional well-being when you train in martial arts.
Martial arts build confidence.
Whether you’re training for fitness, fun, competition, or self-defense, it’s a huge confidence boost to participate in something challenging! A great kickboxing class can make you feel strong and powerful, and you might even see your body changing in ways that help you feel more positive towards yourself. Learning how to strike and grapple can also help you feel more confident that you’d be able to protect yourself in a worst-case scenario.
You’re part of a supportive social group.
Martial arts training comes with a built-in group of awesome friends! Whether it’s your very first day or you’ve been training for years, you’ll be among supportive people who are always happy to help you succeed every time you step on the mat. Classes that involve partner work – such as jiu-jitsu or holding focus mitts in a striking class – also present a unique opportunity for healthy physical contact, which can contribute to better mental health in many ways.
You get to see yourself improve.
Martial arts offer valuable personal development opportunities for people of all ages. Improving your skill level in a certain area (such as better cardio fitness, better quality of movement, or being able to land that tricky high kick) instills self-efficacy, or the belief in one’s own ability to succeed in a particular situation. A strong sense of self-efficacy is closely associated with higher self-esteem, resilience, and emotional well-being.
Martial arts teach coping skills.
Training in martial arts involves a significant and highly unique aspect of stress adaptation, both in the body and in the mind. When you train in challenging situations, you are rewiring your brain – bit by bit – to be more efficient at managing acute (short-term) stress. These skills also translate to how well you’re able to handle chronic (long-term) stress, emotional ups and downs, and other challenges in your life.
Training offers a break in your routine.
Sometimes we feel like we’re stuck doing the same stuff, day after day, month after month. For those of us who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns, it can be near impossible to break the routine and get ourselves “un-stuck”. If you have somewhere exciting to be – like that Muay Thai class you signed up for! – it can be the motivation you need to do something different and set yourself in an upwards spiral of success. Plus, no two classes are ever exactly the same!
This is also especially important for those of us who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, also referred to as seasonal depression). If it’s hard to convince yourself to leave the house during the cold winter months, try taking some martial arts classes and give yourself a reason to crawl out from under that cozy pile of blankets.
Exercise promotes balance in the brain and body.
Consistent exercise of any variety – including martial arts – can help regulate the balance of natural chemicals in your brain and gives you a boost of feel-good endorphins. Physical activity also helps your endocrine system maintain healthy hormone levels, improves circulation and oxygen uptake, and promotes regular digestion.
As a bonus, many people who take medications to help manage mental health conditions report that exercise improves the function of their medications and reduces the occurrence of negative side effects.*
*Please be cautious, as some medications can increase fatigue and sweating, and can cause changes in blood pressure.
Your body becomes stronger and healthier.
This is an article about mental health, but physical health is intricately tied to mental health and it absolutely deserves a spot in this list. Whatever is happening in your body also impacts what is happening in your brain, and vice versa. The body and the mind are closely related aspects of the larger ecosystem that makes up “you”. Even if you’re primarily focused on tending to your mental health, it’s extremely important to also take care of your body – the physical vessel that you use to navigate the world around you. Regular exercise, balanced nutrition, quality sleep, and plenty of water are all essential components of physical health that can also help improve mental health.
But don’t just take our word for it – try it out for yourself! Get started with Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, and MMA classes at the Cellar with our 1-Week Trial Special, or visit our class schedule for a full list of the classes we offer.
September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression, or other mental health concerns, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.