Why you should try boxing for mental health

WWhen I first moved to New York City, I joined a gym to keep up my weightlifting routine. But before I knew it, I enrolled myself in a weekly boxing class to improve my cardio, strengthen my muscles, and try something new. The biggest benefit I realized, though, had nothing to do with my body.

“Although some people may have the impression from movies and TV that boxing is chaotic, the sport is actually very meditative because it requires a high level of concentration,” says FightCamp trainer Aaron Swenson. “By focusing completely on the task at hand, you’re forced to shut out the outside world and avoid these daily stresses. A workout leaves no room for daydreaming or making mental to-do lists.”

Boxing doesn’t just increase concentration in the moment—it also provides more focus post-punch, which means less time for thinking. “Controlling your hand motions, footwork, and head movements involves a high level of mental focus, which makes you feel more alert and focused after your workout and for hours afterward,” says Swanson.

What I’ve always found most intriguing is that even if I don’t have time for a 50-minute class, practicing punches and footwork on my own at home for 15 to 20 minutes gives me the same mood boost. According to Swenson, that’s the beauty of boxing: You don’t have to jab, cross, hook and uppercut until you’re choked—even short boxing sesh can prove beneficial.

While I absolutely found the concentration aspect of boxing to get me out of my head and into the moment — which was huge for me considering I was a debilitating anxiety sufferer at the time — I also admittedly loved the ability to release pent-up nerves.

“Our oldest instincts are war or journey; Our bodies thrive when we sharpen these two responses through the practices we do every day,” explains Noah Neiman, co-founder of Rumble Boxing. “Not only is it cathartic to ball your fists and let your arms fly, but when you’re improving your skill set, you’re actually improving the fight response that’s been ingrained in our DNA since the dawn of mankind. When we develop our natural survival skills, we are more likely to project strength and confidence.”

Because of all this, after a break from the ring after moving out of town, I found myself back in boxing. Of course, in the seven years since I first started boxing, the fitness industry has changed. Fortunately for me, this means that now instead of buying a gym membership and hoping that boxing classes line up with my schedule, I can run down to my basement to punch it out in my own ring.

Just as cycling classes transitioned to an at-home sensibility with brands like Peloton and boutique HIIT classes became accessible with platforms like Les Mills and Lululemon Studios, a boutique boxing experience is now accessible at home with FightCamp. While I love the community aspect of private group fitness, I find that honing my boxing skills at home allows me to focus more on myself and the task at hand because I have no one else in the room to compare myself to. It’s just me and the FightCamp instructor on my screen.

In general, FightCamp encourages members to “train like a fighter,” which means boxing two to three times a week and rounding it out with strength training and recovery sessions, Swanson said. With that in mind, now that I’ve started boxing again, I’m using it to supplement my days off from Orangetheory Fitness.

The result? I feel that no matter what’s going on in my life—even if I can’t make it for an hour under the orange light, or if I feel completely overwhelmed by a jam-packed schedule—I have the opportunity to “float” like a butterfly and Sting like a bee.”

And if I start feeling stressed, my bag is waiting for me in my basement. “This is great news: when [the endorphins and emotional benefits of boxing] Wear off, you can always ball your fists for another knuckle therapy session,” Neiman says.

See what it feels like to throw yourself a few punches with this quick boxing workout:

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