Martial arts can be a discipline, a fitness regimen, and a form of self-defense that's useful for all ages. And the positives of the practice are backed up by scientific studies. Research shows that martial arts offer myriad benefits for the body and mind.
Like any physical fitness regimen, martial arts practitioners can expect improvements in cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. It's one more way to move and stay active. But martial arts has more to offer than some other forms of exercise.
Martial arts practice also tends to improve posture, stamina, endurance, and flexibility. A 2014 review showed that martial arts students gain faster reaction times and significantly better balance over time.
In a Portuguese study, adolescent martial arts students showed better bone density than a control group. Strong bones are less liable to breakage and lay the foundation for a future free from osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Older practitioners can see specific benefits as well: a 2016 study from the American Geriatric Society demonstrated a link between martial arts exercises and a decreased incidence of falls. Taekwon-do exercises emphasize dynamic movements that train the muscles involved in balance and walking, reversing the declines seen in aging adults. In addition to preventing the hip fractures or broken bones that come from falls, martial arts can slow age-related declines in visual acuity. The fast movements involved in taekwon-do or judo can also improve perception and peripheral vision in students of all ages. Taking up martial arts may be a good way to counteract the effects of aging.
While the physical benefits and advantages of martial arts are a clear draw, the mental benefits can't be discounted. Martial arts like taekwon-do are increasingly understood as a comprehensive approach to both physical and mental well-being.
A scientific case report from the American Journal of Psychotherapy suggests that martial arts can be a form of mental therapy. The physical aspect of martial arts exercise can pair well with psychotherapy as a way to let out or discover suppressed feelings and emotions.
Martial arts students tend to see significant cognitive and behavioral benefits. Numerous studies suggest that the practice improves assertiveness. A study from Singapore demonstrated that taking up martial arts improves symptoms of depression and anxiety in older adults over the course of a year.
In children, martial arts practice can raise self-esteem, both through simply improving physical fitness, as well as gaining discipline and learning how to defend themselves against opponents. The sense of preparedness that comes with learning self-defense can carry significant psychological benefits.
The martial arts also teach students, especially children, how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. Though a form of self-defense, the practice discourages starting physical fights. Instead, students learn not to respond to provocation with violence.
Another benefit in today's society is increased attention. In the age of Twitter and Snapchat, distractions abound and attention deficits are on the rise. In an experiment conducted by researchers at Bangor University, martial arts students saw improved attention, focus, and alertness compared to control groups. The discipline that martial arts requires can improve attention and help students get off their smartphones in addition to their couches.
In seniors, martial arts can halt the mental effects of aging as well as the physical ones. The exertion and exercise that martial arts provides is one way to preserve mental function and delay cognitive decline. A study conducted in nursing homes among residents suffering from mild dementia demonstrated significant beneficial effects from participating in a martial arts program.
At Silver Lining Taekwon-do, we offer self-defense and martial arts training for all ages. Gain physical and mental strength with our flexible roster of classes and programs. Contact us today for more information about enrollment.
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