Boxing Your Way To Better Mental Health
Studies have shown that being physically active improves your mental state. Just 15 minutes of moderately intense exercise can lift your mood - instantly triggering your brain’s feel-good chemicals and acting as a powerful antidepressant.
“Even that brief of a burst can reduce the risk of developing depression, and can help some people come out of depression,” explains neuropsychologist Dr. Julie Brody Magid.
Boxing is a full-body workout that may have a few added advantages for your mental health over other forms of exercise.
Boxing As A Meditative Movement
When most people think of boxing, they think more of chaos than calm. For those who do boxing training, they know that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“There’s a mindfulness, even a meditation to boxing training,” says Dr. Brody Magid. “So much of the training is about focus, being intentional, and about calming yourself.”
She notes that there is strong evidence to support that mindfulness and meditation contribute to mental health, even causing positive changes in the brain structure with continued practice.
The idea of ‘moving meditation’ is usually associated with exercise like yoga, however, exercise like boxing undoubtedly evokes a similar sense of being present in the moment, with an awareness of oneself and their surroundings.
During a boxing workout, you are focusing not only on each hit to the bag, but also the form of your body and your breathing. For anyone who has ever tried a boxing workout, you know you are thinking of nothing else in that moment.
“There’s so much to be said for a mindful presence…not thinking about the past or the future. This helps with regulation and coping,” Dr Brody Magid explains.
Getting Started and Sticking With It
Dr. Brody Magid knows that the hardest part of adding exercise to your life is just getting going, especially if it’s totally new.
“It can be very hard to start. If people are sedentary, or they’re depressed or anxious, the effort that it will take to start something feels beyond their capability,” she says, noting that this is a common hurdle for her patients. “You just start with something. You can start with something that’s 15 minutes long. If you get through that 15 minutes, you can check that off, you’ve done that first piece.”
The variety offered in boxing training means that you can always find something new to try that fits your skill level, and most beginner workouts start at around 15 minutes. You just need to make the short time commitment and find the drive to do it.
Dr. Brody Magid recommends remembering this helpful adage: ‘action precedes motivation.’ This is a theory used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that rings true for anyone who has ever lacked the will to start anything, even when they know they should. You may not feel the drive and enthusiasm to start but once you do, and establish a routine, the motivation follows to maintain that activity.
“Recognize that starting is the hardest part for everyone,” Dr. Brody Magid says. She advises beginners to start slowly and learn foundational skills. Most importantly, be patient and compassionate with yourself. Seek out advice and tips on how to kick off your new exercise routine. Once you feel the accomplishment of conquering the Start, your motivation will gain momentum.
Action Precedes Motivation
- Remind yourself that starting is the hardest part. Once you decide to commit and get through the first few workouts, it only gets easier.
- Start slowly and listen to your body, don’t push yourself too hard too fast in the beginning.
- Learn the basics first. Focus on form and skills to build your confidence.
- Buddy up or join a community for support. Encouragement and accountability can help keep you motivated.
- Be patient with yourself. Everyone progresses at their own pace. Don’t lose sight of your goals!
She explains that this mantra is also essential for anyone who has fallen out of their routine or burned out. “Think of it as a reset,” She says. “It happens to everybody; we all fall off sometimes. You just reset and start again.”
Bringing It Home
As Dr. Brody Magid explains, exercise has been a lifeline for so many during the pandemic. The rise of home-based exercise during quarantine has helped people stabilize their mental health and, in many cases, develop a sense of community - even if that community is online.
“[Home-based] exercise has helped people during their darkest hours. To know your body, know when you work out best, know when you need exercise to help you get through something…having that access at home is very different than having to go to a gym,” she says.
The benefits of being able to workout at home are even more acute for beginners. If you are just starting an exercise routine, it takes away so many of the added stressors and makes it easier to stick with it. At-home workout programs like FightCamp provide beginners with the necessary tools to get started and the guidance to keep you going.
Main Benefits of Home Workouts:
- Easy Access - No need to find classes or commute to a gym
- Privacy - No reason to feel self-conscious
- Flexibility - You can workout at any time, for any duration, at any intensity
- Increased Self-Awareness - You can develop a sense of when you work out best, or do it anytime you feel stressed
With all the benefits of home-based workouts like FightCamp, Dr. Brody Magid does recommend that you still mix it up with outdoor activities to spend time in nature, remember to cross train, and do group or partner training whenever possible.
Staying active is essential in fostering better mental health. Boxing offers the perfect opportunity to combine physical activity with mental training - even in your own home. For beginners, it’s critical to remember that getting started is the hardest part. Luckily, there is a wealth of resources to help you on your journey towards a stronger body and mind. Online exercise programs like FightCamp offer the information, step-by-step video workouts, and community support to help you kickstart your journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
How Exercise Improves Mental Health
How to Start Your FightCamp Workout: Tips & Tricks
5 Basic Boxing Techniques to Learn at Home During Quarantine (No Gym Needed)
How Can a Beginner Start Boxing at Home?
The Author: Mollie McGurk is a fitness enthusiast who has trained in boxing, HIIT boxing, kickboxing and MMA for over 10 years. Her local boxing gym has hosted champion instructors including the ‘Iceman’ John Scully and Israel ‘Pito’ Cardona. Mollie has also studied personal training through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) program.
Contributor: Julie Brody Magid, Psy.D. is the clinical director of McLean Hospital’s Memory Disorders Assessment Clinic in the Center of Excellence in Geriatric Psychiatry. She oversees clinic operations and conducts comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations with older adult patients who are referred for memory disorders and other cognitive problems. Dr. Brody Magid specializes in providing neurocognitive and psychodiagnostic evaluation and treatment for patients with traumatic/acquired brain injury, dementia, movement disorders, and neuropsychiatric illnesses.