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Boxing Your Way to Better Mental Health

"Punch Those Worries Down"
By: James BarramedaBoxing Your Way to Better Mental Health

Boxing has come a long way since it was first introduced to Filipinos many decades ago. No longer just a competitive sport, boxing is now practiced by fitness enthusiasts as a form of cardio exercise and is offered in most gyms nationwide.

But did you know that boxing is not only fantastic for weight loss and muscle toning? Yes that’s right, it also brings a load of positive effects on your overall mental health. This is why this form of exercise has grown so much in popularity, especially among working adults who have fast-paced stressful jobs.

Here are some of the mental benefits you can enjoy from boxing:

It reduces stress

When you feel the pressure of daily tasks, it’s a great idea to blow off some steam on a punching bag to relieve your stress. Boxing also increases concentrations of the neurochemical called “norepinephrine”, which can moderate your brain's response to stress.

After several sessions of boxing, you’ll soon notice that the things that used to rattle you right away can now be more manageable. A few more months of practice and you’ll start to approach problems and threats systematically and more objectively.

It gets rid of anger

Instead of hurting someone (and going to jail for it), better express your anger elsewhere like in the boxing gym.

Believe me, after just 30 minutes with the punching bag, you’ll immediately feel lighter, more peaceful and less aggressive. When you have less agression over an issue, you tend to think more clearly and more objectively. This can eventually help you come up with better options to solve your problems.

It helps prevent panic attacks

Panic attacks or episodes of crippling anxiety can be triggered when we’re threatened or spooked with “fight” or “flight” situations. This makes the body’s nervous system manifest reactions like dizziness, sweating and palpitations.

Regular workouts, such as boxing sessions, can help those who are prone to anxiety attacks by letting the body repeatedly experience the same physical reactions — increased heart rate and sweating – in response to the exercise, not because of an emergency situation. Instead of danger, your brain will be used to associate the same physical reactions with safety.

It strengthens your determination

Boxing requires a lot of discipline, patience and will power to perform repetitous and strenious exercises. When you rigorously train for a boxing match, you not only become tenacious physically but mentally as well. This devotion to endure pain and exhaustion on the boxing gym translates well in your attitude towards other daily aspects of your life like your relationships and your career. This gives you a “never say die” attitude, which is important in overcoming advserities in life.

It lifts your mood

Studies show that those who regularly hit the boxing gym tend to be happier and more cheerful. This is because during exercise, the body releases a concoction of brain chemicals that helps improve mood. Chemicals such as phenyl ethylamine ( also found in chocolates) as well as endorphins (which creates feelings of happiness and euphoria) can instantly brighten any gloomy mood you may have before hitting the gym. Boxing also increases levels of serotonin - the neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants.

Exercising in general can provide a quick remedy for the blues. According to Boston University professor of psychology Dr. Michael Otto, patients usually feel the uplift in mood within 5 minutes after moderate exercise. It can also help combat long-term depression. According to Duke University clinical psychologist Dr. James Blumenthal, studies showed that active individuals are generally less depressed than those who are inactive. He also added that for those who stopped working out, they tend to be more depressed than those who maintain a regular exercise program.

It improves your confidence

One of the reasons people enroll in boxing classes is because they want to know how to defend themselves from criminals, bullies and abusive people in their lives. Learning how to do this successfully can boost one’s self image and confidence.

What’s more, this new skill helps you feel more empowered to even take on new challenges in your daily activities, both at work and at home. 

Box your negative feels away

So what are you waiting for? Head to a gym nearest you and inquire now. The physical and mental benefits of boxing are too much to just ignore.

Thinking of doing your sessions at the comfort of your own home? Sure it is possible (all you’ll need is to buy boxing equipment and your own gloves at a sports store), but do note that it’s also important to have a trainer check your form and stance to ensure you don’t get injured.

Also check with your doctor before enrolling just to make sure it's safe for you. Your doctor will tell you how much and how intense a training session is okay, considering any preexisting health conditions that you may have.

If despite regular exercise you still feel the symptoms of anxiety or depression, see your doctor or mental health provider. Exercise may help ease symptoms of anxiety or depression, but it is not a substitute for psychotherapy or medication.

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