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By Anna-Marie Brittain

The many benefits of fitness boxing

With so many styles of exercise offered today, it can be tough to figure out which fitness routine to choose. Boxing has been a popular contact sport for over a century. With star boxers like Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali and Oscar de la Hoya influencing generations of fighters, their success has opened up a forum of fitness opportunities. Athletes like them established lifelong routines of maintaining fitness through boxing. From those routines, noncompetitive fitness boxing arose as its own sport and has become a superb way of staying physically active, healthy and strong.

Weighing the benefits

As reported by the Harvard Health Letter, a trusted publication of Harvard Medical School, fitness boxing is an "adapted version of the [boxing] sport" that helps to "improve your strength, endurance, and balance." This style of exercises can result in long-term health benefits because of the challenges that it presents. "It constantly requires you to think, change your position, and change your postures."

Fitness boxing can help you focus on individual muscle groups. For example, shadow boxing-practicing the forms without actually hitting anything-provides practice with proper stances and challenges your body to stay in constant movement. Using exercise equipment like a speed bag helps you to improve bodily rhythm, hand-eye coordination and speed. With low-impact punches that exercise both mind and body, it can literally keep you on your toes.

The dual benefits of this exercise are the challenges it presents to physical preparedness and mental acuity. The other specific physical and internal health benefits include balance improvement, upper-body and core strengthening, increased endurance levels and increased alertness. It also can improve/enhance your mood. Your upper body strengthens with the constant movement of your muscles as you punch, whether it's standing up, sitting down, punching the air or punching a bag. If you are in a standing boxer's stance, with proper form, you're actually strengthening your legs, core and back muscle groups, too.

Total body workout
Fitness boxing offers a platform for a total body workout. According to Jessica Smith in Shape magazine, fitness boxing is a strength training, calorie-burning cardio workout. It incinerates calories by way of high-intensity interval training that helps to boost metabolism.

"Boxing is extremely taxing on [your] core" because of the simultaneous movements of your hips, legs and shoulders," she writes. Not only will your body benefit, but this style of fitness allows you to fine-tune coordination. In turn, you are working out your "brain-body connection, boosting your body awareness."

This total body workout includes improving mental acuity and helps to tackle internal stress. As Smith states, "the adrenaline that is released…and the hormonal response far exceeds any physical benefits." It's a productive way of staying healthy and letting go of tension. Additionally, the "endorphins released are also likely to make you happier."

Who can benefit?

Since fitness boxing offers a wide array of approaches, from shadow boxing to heavy bags, a person's age and size are not an issue. Men, women, young, old, tall, short, athletes, non-athletes-it doesn't matter because there is something for everyone.

Classes and trainers offer fitness boxing routines tailored to the comfort levels of individual wants or needs. A heavy bag workout, for instance, can be fine-tuned to challenge someone who wants a little more resistance while boxing. The heavy bag not only increases the difficulty level of the workout but provides the resistance needed to build overall strength and power, especially for those seeking to strengthen their upper bodies and improve overall boxing technique.

Some classes cater to the elderly, some of whom prefer to sit while punching at the air or a small bag. Other classes specialize in weight loss and burning calories, with intense shadow boxing and high movement routines.

As stated by Patrick Dale in Livestrong magazine, the cardiovascular benefits of fitness boxing "include reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, reduced blood pressure and reduced risk of stroke." These health factors alone would highly benefit the elderly, the overweight and folks who suffer from high blood pressure and similar maladies.

Dale also reported that fitness boxing and similar exercises can help to increase bone density. As we age, our bone mass gradually begins to decline. Without proper physical and dietary health, low bone mass can develop into serious medical conditions that leave your bones weaker and easier to fracture. People who seek preventative measures against osteoporosis and arthritis can benefit from fitness exercise. Weight-bearing exercise like this can help to strengthen and build bone mass.

As always, if you are concerned or curious, be sure to research what type of routines would best fit you. Since fitness boxing can be an intense set of the aerobic and anaerobic exercise, consult your doctor before beginning any physical fitness program.

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