All martial arts involve physical activity that increases both your mental and physical endurance. But did you know that practicing martial arts also helps to maintain healthy heart function and a strong cardiovascular system?
February is American Heart Month, an opportunity to raise awareness of the different heart-related conditions that could potentially affect any of us, such as heart disease, stroke, and cardiac arrest. To help shed light on this topic, we’ve listed some of the surprising links between martial arts and a healthy heart!
Martial arts strengthens your heart
A high-intensity martial arts workout both temporarily raises your heart rate and ultimately lowers your blood pressure, cholesterol, and body fat percentage. When your heart rate rises from a martial arts workout, more oxygen moves through your body to encourage the burning of body fat and calories– even after you’ve stopped working out! This is great for your heart because it helps to keep your arteries open and clear of excess fat build-up, in turn, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol.
Don’t forget that regular exercise is only half of the equation. Your daily diet is equally, if not more, important for maintaining a healthy body weight! A clean diet that consists of plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and leafy greens is ideal for optimal heart health.
Adopting a new diet can be challenging, so don’t be afraid to look for help and accountability if you’re struggling! If you feel as though maintaining a healthy weight and nutrition regimen has been difficult for you, it may be beneficial to join a structured weight loss program to develop better eating habits. This will help you learn what foods provide different nutrients and how many of each you should be consuming every day. After all, the combination of regular exercise and weight management are key to living a long, heart-healthy life!
Martial arts reduces stress
Beyond the stress relief experienced from the release of mood-boosting endorphins during physical activity, the practice of martial arts altogether encourages a more positive outlook on life. When you make the decision to train in martial arts, you are embarking on a new journey that will be shared with other like-minded people. On this journey, you will find happiness in the support and encouragement that is given to you and that you give in return within your martial arts community. In general, martial arts will teach you how to slow down, focus, and live intentionally– all which helps to reduce daily stress levels.
If left unaddressed, stress can really wreak havoc on your heart. It can be attributed to high blood pressure, shortness of breath, and even heart palpitations. Not to mention, people who experience high levels of stress tend to lean on unhealthy habits such as smoking and overeating to cope with or numb the feelings of anxiety. Instead, practicing martial arts will teach you how to relieve stress through healthier outlets such as mindfulness and physical activity.
Martial arts helps with heart attack recovery
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, heart conditions still have a way of creeping up on us– especially as we age. This happened to be the case in the story of black belt Paul Foley, who has a family history of high cholesterol. Though martial arts and fitness couldn’t prevent him from experiencing a cardiac event, it certainly helped him to recover quickly and become even healthier than he was before!
Today, with all of Paul’s efforts in wellness and practice in martial arts, his doctors believe that his arteries could last him until he’s 120 years old! When asked why he has chosen to stick with martial arts, Paul says “[...] it gives me a lot of peace. I don’t get aggravated in bad situations; I don’t lose my temper – whereas before I started martial arts, I think my emotions were all over the place. I’ve got a bit more stability now in terms of my emotions, and a lot more calmness.”