Physical and mental health go hand in hand. The physical benefits of martial arts training are well documented. Martial arts practice improves cardiovascular fitness, tones muscles, and can help people lose weight.
What you may not know is that the martial arts aren’t just for self-defense and physical fitness. The training provided in a martial art class can do wonderful things for your brain, too! With that in mind, let’s review some of the significant brain benefits of martial arts such as Karate, Taekwondo, and Judo.
COGNITIVE BENEFITS OF MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING
There is a lot of research looking at the cognitive benefits of exercise. There are some benefits that accrue regardless of the type of exercise you choose. However, some are unique to the martial arts, and a martial artist may reap the benefits in both the short and long term.
The first cognitive benefit of martial art training is improved focus. This is one of the brain benefits that you can get from any form of exercise. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain and that makes it easy to focus your attention on any situation or task.
Processing speed is a measure of how quickly the brain puts information together and draws conclusions based on it. The practice of martial arts helps the brain to make connections quickly and easily — and this is a brain benefit that can come from other forms of exercise as well.
Executive function dictates the way the brain processes more complex cognitive problems and this is an area where martial arts training wins out over other forms of exercise. Because martial artists are asked to perform complex movements in response to complex events, it is the only form of exercise that provides an improvement in executive function.
A primary function of the brain is to gather information and store it in your short term or long term memory. Martial art students must memorize movements and skills and repeat them to ensure they can replicate them during both practice and belt testing. For that reason, martial arts training can do a lot to improve your memory.
MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE MARTIAL ARTS
In addition to improving your cognitive function, studying the martial arts can help to boost your mental health. It has many of the same benefits of meditation in that it quiets the brain both during and after a workout.
Stress is something that can impact every aspect of your life. In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease, it can also impact your memory, focus, and everything else about your life. A high-intensity martial arts workout can reduce stress.
Depression is a common mental illness, and it affects millions of people in the United States every year. We would never tell you that a martial arts class is a cure for depression, but exercise triggers the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins, which can lift your mood and make you feel good.
Like depression, anxiety is extremely common. There’s plenty of evidence that vigorous exercise, like the kind you get in martial arts class, can help to reduce anxiety. It can also improve sleep, which is important because anxiety and insomnia often go together.
The bottom line is that your brain can benefit in a multitude of ways from studying the martial arts. Whether you’re looking to give your cognitive function a boost or find a way to improve your mental health and feel better about life, signing up for a martial arts class can be a great thing for your brain!