When it comes to choosing a method to fight the dreaded “Quarantine Fifteen” – that unwanted, unloved and unnecessary extra weight many of us acquired while locked down and hiding from COVID-19 – there are several contenders for the title of “most effective.” There’s Crossfit, Peloton, Tonal, Echelon, NordicTrack and a host of fitness centers and chains.
While the options for getting in shape are numerous, few, if any, can match the unique mixture of gains enjoyed by those who choose good, old-fashioned boxing training as their method.
“It’s a comprehensive workout – you have to engage your physical, your mental as well as your spiritual,” explains Rahman Ali, founder of AFighter4Life Boxing & Fitness, former amateur boxer and longtime trainer. “Boxing training helps strengthen all these things.”
While many of the physical benefits of boxing training are apparent by simply looking at someone who’s been at it for a while – lean, chiseled biceps, tight abs and firm calves are often dead giveaways – others aren’t as outwardly sexy but are absolutely practical, like the improved hand-eye coordination and hand speed, in addition to increased stamina and endurance you’ll enjoy.
Then there are the benefits to your cardiovascular health, which can literally keep you alive. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, Black people are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than white people, and one of the leading causes of heart disease is obesity. Boxing is an aerobic exercise that gets your heart and lungs pumping while also burning calories and fat, so you’re getting gains and positive losses at the same time.
All this while also learning how to put somebody to sleep with a perfect one-two punch.
Speaking of sleep – that’s another thing boxing can help improve. It can even help you think more clearly, and that’s only the beginning of the mental benefits.
“It makes your melatonin kick in more effectively, so you sleep better,” says medical professional Dawn Wells, 50, about the hormone the body produces that controls the sleep cycle. Dawn has been supplementing her strength training with boxing for about a year. “[Boxing] also releases endorphins and serotonin into your body, which sharpens your thinking. Boxing has even been proven to help people with Parkinson’s (disease)!”
Yes, boxing training has been proven to have such a strong mental impact that it’s been incorporated into some physical therapy programs for patients with Parkinson’s disease. Specialists at the Emory School of Medicine discovered that non-contact boxing training can alleviate motor symptoms associated with the disease and help improve balance and concentration.
When you consider the amount of focus required to succeed in boxing, even in boxing training, the fact that it can literally make your brain stronger shouldn’t be surprising.
But what’s even deeper than its mental benefits is the aforementioned spiritual engagement and personal enhancement that result from boxing training, both of which can begin before you even throw a punch.
“When you pick fighting as a means of fitness, there’s a lot that goes into it. A lotta times people are coming to feel good. A lotta times there’s pain,” Rahman explains. “Sometimes there’s a pain you’re trying to heal yourself from and fighting is the outlet you’re using to get it off of you.”
So-called “sweat therapy,” or using exercise as a means of stress relief, isn’t a new concept, but boxing training has other transformative effects as well. It’ll boost your confidence as you see gains in your skills and your physique; getting up and going to the gym even when you don’t want to will strengthen your discipline and resolve; and, frankly, getting your butt kicked – literally or just by the workout – will humble even the most alpha person you know.
“Everybody thinks they can fight until they have to do it technically; then, you really figure out how wrong your technique is,” laughs Jason Upson, who’s been training with boxing for more than a decade. “Doing this is very humbling. It’ll teach you patience that’ll transcend boxing as a sport or hobby.”
In sum, boxing just makes you better.
“It gives you the strength to fight those afflictions that are holding you back,” Rahman adds. “If you ask me, boxing is number one for self-improvement.”