Let's face it, for some of us the "routine" of going to the gym, lifting weights and spending time on the static cardio machines just isn't all that appealing anymore. In fact what is it we are accomplishing anyways, aside from the health and aesthetic benefits? Is there a practical application of being able to incline bench press 400 pounds, or 90-pound dumbbell curls?
Well I am sure there are those that would argue there is, but let's take a look at a practical alternative to the gym that will get you very fit, train your core, balance and coordination, all the things that we use everyday. That alternative is the martial arts.
The martial arts prove that there are viable alternatives to traditional training methods, and one that will not only help you achieve certain fitness goals but teach you self-defense, help build confidence, and lay out a path of goals ahead of you that will keep you coming back, wanting to learn more.
People of all ages are taking martial arts worldwide. Tae kwon do a Korean martial has a loyal following of over 70 million practitioners.
How effective are the Martial Arts for Fitness?
Improved Proprioception: Okay proprioception, that's a big word but it is basically something akin to "muscle sense" or our body's ability to sense whether it is moving and where the different body parts are in relation to each other.
A Chinese study on the martial art of Tai Chi showed that elderly practitioners of this art showed better proprioception at the ankle and knee joints than sedentary controls, and better ankle kinaesthesis than swimmers or runners.
April, 2003 there was a study on the Korean martial art soo bahk do (SBD) to compare the middle-aged practitioners of this martial art to a group of sedentary individuals. The test group was comprised of 18 individuals, 14 of whom were men and 4 women aged between 40-60 years old. 9 individuals were practitioners of SBD, and the other 9 were sedentary, the participants where matched for age and sex.
The following things were tested: body composition, balance, flexibility, quadriceps strength, grip strength, muscle endurance, and aerobic capacity.
The results of the test were quite impressive, and were conclusive. The SBD practitioners displayed greater aerobic capacity, balance, flexibility, muscle endurance, and strength, and less body fat (there was a remarkable 12% difference) than the sedentary controls. The SBD practitioners were able to do nearly 250% more pushups and twice as many sit-ups in the allotted time. SBD is an excellent form of exercise for the promotion of fitness in adults.
What should I take?
There are so many different styles of martial arts out there and many offer different training styles, and methodologies amongst the most popular are Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Tai Chi, and Kung fu. Martial arts training doesn't just offer physical improvement, but mental as well. Most classes strive to improve focus and discipline. As an added bonus you gain a sense of accomplishment when you pass that belt test. When choosing what martial art is right for you, you should take the time to visit a school and watch or participate in a class or two before making your decision.
Though it is difficult to really find negatives in martial arts training for fitness, this kind of training can increase stress on joints (depending on the martial art).
In conclusion, Martial Arts are proven to be a great alternative to fitness training and provide the student with skills and physical abilities that you could gain by weight training or working solely in the gym.