• 13 Jun - 19 Jun, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly

Learn how martial arts can refresh your exercise routine and challenge your mind and body

Martial arts can help you defend and protect yourself, but there are a number of health and fitness benefits associated with them as well. There are several types of martial arts, including:


This is the most common and well-known form of martial arts. Karate is a great way to tone and strengthen the upper body. In karate, an individual uses the hands, feet, and elbows for self-defense.

Tae kwon do

Tae kwon do is related to karate, but focuses more on the legs and kicking, and less on the hands and upper body. Tae kwon do is good for strengthening and toning the lower body.


In judo, you leverage the size and strength of the person you are fighting to defend yourself. Unlike other martial arts, judo focuses more on rolling and controlling opponents by holding them off, rather than by striking them.

Kung fu

This high-intensity martial art provides a strong aerobic and cardiovascular workout. Kung fu involves primarily kicking and punching moves, somersaults, jumps, and evading an opponent. Kung fu particularly helps improve cardiovascular health.

Tai chi

Also known as tai chi chuan, this Chinese martial art involves choreographed, slow-motion postures. Some forms use a sword or other weapons. Tai chi can improve balance and coordination, memory, and sleep, as well as reduce anxiety, depression, falls, and knee, back, and other types of chronic pain.

Health and fitness benefits of martial arts

Martial arts can provide a variety of physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages. Here’s a summary of some research:

Total body workout

Martial arts are a high-aerobic workout that uses every muscle group in the body. Your stamina, muscle tone, flexibility, balance and strength will all improve through martial arts.

Flexibility and agility

Practicing martial arts increases flexibility and agility, thereby improving your coordination skills.


Good posture is beneficial for your health and can make you look and feel better.


Since martial arts provide a full-body workout, they increase overall stamina and endurance.

Weight loss

Martial arts is a moderate-intensity physical activity that allows you to burn up to 500 calories in one class. All the movements in martial arts are intense and help you burn calories faster. When you practice martial arts, you tend to have low food cravings. And when your eating becomes regulated, your body weight goes down automatically.

Improved reflexes

Research has found that by participating in martial arts, you not only improve your reflexes while performing the activity, but actually experience faster reaction times during all activities of your life. This is very important in a number of daily activities, such as driving.

Focus and stillness

As Bruce Lee pointed out, behind the punches, kicks and knees, a true martial artist learns to sit with himself and see where his weaknesses are. As a martial artist, you will learn what it is to be still, challenged and focused.

Muscle tone

By participating in martial arts, you can greatly improve the amount of muscle mass you have in your body. The higher your muscle mass, the higher your metabolic demands will be, and subsequently the more calories you will burn each day, thereby helping prevent obesity and promote weight loss. High levels of muscle mass also lead to increased agility, thereby preventing falls as you age.

Mental health

In addition to improving physical fitness, martial arts can improve mental and emotional health. As you learn self-defense moves, martial arts can give you greater self-confidence, reduce stress, and help you to concentrate and focus.

Improves cardiovascular health

Martial arts requires you to undergo vigorous exercise. The different drills increase your heart rate, helping you build a good cardiovascular endurance. The only way to improve heart health is by participating in activities that makes it work hard – and what can be better than martial arts?

Keeps blood pressure in check

As most martial art techniques require intense training, it results in overall fitness. The repetitive movements you practice are similar to HIIT, which aids cardiovascular health and controls high blood pressure.

Cognitive improvements

In a 2016 study, 89 older women and men were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group practiced karate twice a week; another group did traditional fitness activities twice a week, including running and strength training. The third (control) group continued their normal activities. After five months, only the karate group showed improvement in attentiveness, reaction time, and mental resilience under stress (which involved a computer test in which users had to react to rapidly changing colours and sounds). It’s not clear why karate was better than other types of exercise, but the authors speculated that its specific blend of aerobics, balance, and coordination may have a particularly beneficial effect on the brain.