by Stephen Bitsoli
Routine kickboxing is great for your body. Just look at some of the leading kickboxing and MMA pros. What you may not know is that kickboxing is also great for your mental health, and you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy those benefits. In 2017, researchers found that elite kickboxers shared some physical and psychological characteristics, including self-confidence, mental toughness, and positive self-talk. They also found that the most successful athletes controlled their anxiety, set goals, and concentrated on their performance, testifying to their mental strengths. Mindset training is just as critical as physical training for kickboxers. Even beginner kickboxing classes for youth often include motivational talks and training in mental toughness. That combination of mental and physical training comes with some big benefits for your mental health at all ages. You’re never too old to begin training.
Kickboxing for Emotion Regulation
Managing emotions is critical for improving your mental health, and not just in kickboxing.
Some of the most debilitating mental health issues include the inability to regulate emotions like anger and fear. Those emotions overtake your life and cause consistent chaos. They may even contribute to mental health disorders such as substance abuse, binge eating, and other addictive behaviors. Think about someone with borderline personality disorder struggling to manage emotions in romantic relationships such as uncontrolled anger. If you guessed that kickboxing is a good outlet for those struggling with anger management and other forms of emotion control, you’re correct. When practiced as a non-competitive sport, kickboxing is a nonviolent outlet for anger, a healthy release of tension caused by the stress of daily life.
According to one study, kickboxing lessons combined with positive psychology coaching increased mental toughness. Mental toughness requires a dedicated focus on one goal and consistent hard work to achieve the goal. Without effective control of your emotions, that’s difficult. With it, you can thrive even in difficult situations.
Kickboxing for Self-Esteem and Assertiveness
A key benefit of good mental health is confidence, a high level of self-esteem, an understanding of your worth and value despite your faults. When you know that you have something valuable to offer the world, you can hold your head high through even the most difficult periods of life. Kickboxing has merit as a treatment strategy for people struggling with diagnosed psychotic disorders, according to a small (24 adults) 2018 study. Participant feedback noted that the treatment program facilitated assertiveness training and the development of greater self-esteem. Researchers also noted improvements in aggression regulation and victimization.
Overcoming Male Stigma Against Seeking Mental Help
Kickboxing may be particularly effective for men’s mental health because it allows them to explore their emotions while working on physical improvement. A 2019 article in the American Journal of Men’s Health found that mixed martial arts training combined with psychotherapy boosts men’s self-esteem and improves their personal and professional relationships. More importantly, men were more willing to ask for help with mental health issues during the program.
Kickboxing as a Long-Term Mental Health Intervention
For therapy to work, people must be willing to stick with it. Consistency in participation results in better outcomes for mental health.
There are many ways you can work on your mental health, but few are as rewarding as physical activities like martial arts and kickboxing. People are more likely to complete research programs when they involve sports and other enjoyable activities. That likely carries over to real life as well.
Researchers have little problem finding participants for studies on the mental health benefits of kickboxing. People from all walks of life, of all ages and both genders, willingly embrace the sport.
One reason may be because kickboxing and other sports participants experience tangible physical benefits such as weight loss and muscle development.
How to Get the Most from Kickboxing
If you want to maximize the mental health benefits of kickboxing, take the mindset lessons as seriously as the physical ones.
Learning to set goals and follow through consistently will do more than make you a better kickboxer. With increased mental toughness you will excel in other areas of life and learn to control anxieties and a wide range of emotions.
Your physical transformation may also improve your mental health. Kickboxing requires a mix of anaerobic and aerobic exercise that can help with weight loss, muscle development, and muscle tone. Those physical improvements can increase your self-confidence while you learn the value of caring for your body.
Commit to the training process and remain consistent. You will improve your mental health alongside the physical.
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov - Kickboxing review: anthropometric, psychophysiological and activity profiles and injury epidemiology
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com - Alcohol Rehab in Austin, Texas
img.faculty.unlv.edu - Cardio Kickboxing as Emotion Therapy
radar.brookes.ac.uk - Coaching to enhance the mental toughness of people learning kickboxing
research.rug.nl - BEATVIC, a body-oriented resilience therapy using kickboxing exercises for people with a psychotic disorder: a feasibility study
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov - Exploring the Effectiveness of an Integrated Mixed Martial Arts and Psychotherapy Intervention for Young Men’s Mental Health