When you’re feeling tense and frustrated, a good workout can help. Fitness boxing, which is a form of exercise that has roots in traditional boxing, offers a safe outlet for your emotions — not to mention an awesome workout.
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Think boxing might be right for you? Physical therapist James Edwards, DPT, discusses why fitness boxing is good for you and how to steer clear of injuries.
Is boxing good exercise?
Traditional boxing prepares fighters to spar in a ring, while fitness boxing is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that challenges your body and mind.
“Boxing combines punching drills and conditioning exercises that can improve your heart health, strength, endurance, balance and coordination,” Dr. Edwards says. “It can also reduce stress, anxiety and depression and improve your confidence and overall well-being.”
A typical fitness boxing class includes a series of drills to keep you moving. Your class may include a mix of:
- Punching rounds, into bags, mitts or the air (known as shadowboxing).
- Footwork drills, like jumping rope and using an agility ladder.
- Jump training, like squat jumps, lateral bounds or burpees.
- Strength exercises, like crunches, planks or pushups.
Both traditional and fitness boxing are great workouts, but fitness boxing is certainly safer. You’re not taking any punches to the face or body — just getting in a great sweat sesh.
6 benefits of boxing
Both traditional boxing and fitness boxing bring a number of health benefits, both physical and emotional — and the more you box, the bigger the benefits!
Dr. Edwards breaks them down for you.
1. Improves heart health
Regular physical activity, including boxing, can lower your blood pressure, your cholesterol and your risk of heart disease.
To achieve these benefits, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines recommend one of these activity levels for adults:
- 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
- 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.
- A combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise.
When you’re boxing, you’re likely to exert moderate- to vigorous-intensity effort. Moderate intensity means you’re at about 50% of your maximum level of exertion. With vigorous exercise, your intensity is 70% to 80%. Want to track your activity levels? Consider purchasing a heart rate monitor.
“A monitor can help you maintain your heart rate during exercise and make sure you’re not overexerting yourself,” Dr. Edwards says.
2. Boosts endurance
Traditional boxing prepares fighters for four to 12 rounds in the ring. Each round is three minutes with a one-minute rest.
“The drills in fitness boxing provide a similar level of conditioning that translates to better stamina,” Dr. Edwards explains.
3. Provides full-body strength
“Throwing a punch works your entire body, from your arms and shoulders all the way to your core and legs,” Dr. Edwards says.
The conditioning exercises in fitness boxing classes also use a whole-body approach. You’ll tone muscles you never knew you had!
4. Helps with weight management
The calories you burn during boxing can help you maintain or achieve a healthy weight.
One study compared boxing training versus moderate-intensity walking in people with a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 25 (which is considered having overweight/obesity). The researchers noted reductions in BMI, waist circumference and body fat percentage in the boxing group, while the walking group showed no changes.
5. Improves balance
Exercise is key to good balance, especially as you age.
“Boxing can give you better agility and hand-eye coordination,” Dr. Edwards notes. “It also helps build a strong core, which is essential for maintaining your equilibrium.”
Boxing training may be an effective therapy to improve balance and reduce falls in people with brain disorders. One early study found that twice-weekly virtual boxing training reduced falls in people with Parkinson’s disease, while another study showed that boxing training improved balance in people who had a stroke.
6. Enhances mental health
Boxing drills can be a form of moving meditation.
“Punching requires intense focus,” Dr. Edwards states, “and the constant movement and HIIT exercises during class leave little time for deep thought.”
Individually, meditation and HIIT offer a range of mental health benefits. Together, they deliver a double punch of rewards. According to a review of 16 studies, the mental health benefits of boxing include:
How to prevent boxing injuries
The saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true for all sports, including boxing: Taking preventive steps can help you avoid injuries.
Dr. Edwards shares tips for staying injury-free:
- Ease into it: You may be tempted to push beyond your limits at first, especially if your classmates are more advanced, but take it slow. “Over time, your endurance and strength will increase,” Dr. Edwards encourages.
- Wear the right gear: Wrapping your hands and wrists and donning the right gloves and mitts will help keep you protected. Ask your instructor for recommendations based on your skill level.
- Use good form: Going rogue can lead to injuries. “Your instructor will teach you the different types of punches and how to throw them properly,” Dr. Edwards says.
- Listen to your body: Pain and swelling are signs you need rest. For sore muscles or joints, 20 minutes of ice can reduce inflammation. Talk to a healthcare provider or physical therapist if the pain continues.
- Make time for recovery: You need time to recover from a high-intensity boxing workout, so plan for two to three HIIT classes per week. On off days, stay active and promote recovery with resistance training, light cardio, yoga and stretching.
And do your due diligence ahead of time.
“If you aren’t used to high-intensity exercise, be sure to check with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s safe for you,” Dr Edwards advises.
What to know before you take a fitness boxing class
If you’ve never thrown a punch, a boxing class may seem intimidating. But many gyms welcome beginners and go out of their way to help new students learn the ropes.
“It can be helpful to have a basic level of fitness, but you don’t need any previous boxing experience to get started,” Dr. Edwards says.
To get off on the right foot:
- Choose a class that allows you to go at your own pace. Many fitness boxing classes offer modifications to help ease newbies into the sport.
- Reach out to the instructor ahead of time to raise any questions or concerns.
- Ask whether your gym has hand wraps and gloves you can borrow, to start.
- To make class more fun and less intimidating, bring a friend!
Anyone who’s taken a boxing class knows it’s great exercise. But that’s only one reason to choose boxing. Learning to punch — even if it’s only for fitness — can be empowering. You may even find that it gives you the strength and confidence to better navigate life’s challenges.