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5 Benefits of Martial Arts as Daily Exercise to Avoid Anxiety

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By Ryan Rivera  – Originally published  Jun 22, 2012

How Martial Arts Affects Anxiety

All exercise has benefits for anxiety, but martial arts can be particularly valuable, especially if you take the activity seriously and do it every day. Some of these benefits include:

  • Control

Perhaps the greatest effect that martial arts has on anxiety is that it is a tool to give you control over yourself and your surroundings. Those that learn martial arts learn discipline, and that discipline affects more than simply the movements within MA itself. That control allows you to handle your emotions in your day to day life as well, keeping you calm and focused rather than letting your mind and thoughts scatter.

  • Confidence

It’s easy to forget how much confidence also affects your ability to control your anxiety. When you’re confident in yourself, then you know that you’ll be able to more easily handle any events that life may throw at you. It’s not always about controlling all of your anxious thoughts. Rather, it’s about experiencing less of a feeling of “flight” when faced with a stressful situation. Martial arts provides this confidence, so that rarely will you feel there are things you cannot handle.

  • Catharsis

When you do experience a stressful day, MA is a great way to relieve much of that stress. In a controlled and safe environment, you have an opportunity to release much of that stressful energy. Any aggression you have inside you is used as a tool, rather than a hindrance. You harness it, and allow the energy to fuel your MA sequences and bouts, brining that energy outside of your body so that it isn’t being held back.

  • Physical Energy Reduction

Not all anxiety is caused by your thoughts. In fact, in most Americans, one of the leading causes of anxiety is simply excess physical energy. As a result of the mind/body connection, that energy is then turned into anxiety, because your body has no other form of release. Martial arts uses all of your muscles and tires each of them out. Any anxiety caused by excess muscular energy goes away, and you’re left with a calmer body and a calmer mind.

  • Healthy Social Experience

Finally, one of the most often forgotten benefits of MA as an anxiety reduction tool is that you’re always with at least one other person, performing actions that are healthy and productive. With today’s busy and complex lifestyle, this time that you spend surrounded by other people of similar interests is incredibly healthy – a type of social environment that few people normally have an opportunity to fit into their schedules. It’s a 100% healthy coping strategy that takes your mind off the troubles of the day, and the benefits of that should not be overlooked.

Using MA to Relieve Anxiety

In addition to the benefits outlined above, all forms of exercise also burn stress hormones and increase endorphins – the body’s natural pain killers. Combine those benefits with all of the advantages outlined above, and you’ll see why MA is such a powerful way to reduce your daily anxiety and stress. As long as you put effort into your martial arts practices, you’ll find that your anxiety melts away.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera has long researched the effects that exercise has on the body, and now writes tools and tips for dealing with anxiety.

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10 Reasons to Get Out of the Gym

large group of young people training kickboxing, outdoor

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While most of us want to get as fit as possible and stay in shape, doing so in an actual gym is oftentimes not the best solution. Gyms can offer many benefits such as professional training, a social atmosphere, and motivation – however, for some, these amenities are simply not enough to overcome the drawbacks.

1. Cost

Certainly, one of the biggest reasons why people would prefer to not work out in a gym is the cost. Although the monthly membership price has come down a great deal over the years due to competition, this is still an expense that can be avoided – especially if one has other potential options for working out for free. It today’s tough economic environment, this is one cost that could easily be cut from the household budget.

2. Wait Time for Machines

Depending on where you work out, you could run into the frustration of having to wait in line for various exercise machines. This is particularly the case immediately after the holidays when many are still clinging to their New Year’s resolution of losing weight.

This pausing between machines can also throw a real monkey wrench into your workout plan, as it is not a good idea to cool off your muscles for too long between exercises. In addition, just the opposite can be true as well when there is a crowd at the gym and you are only allowed to stay on certain machines for a maximum period of time. By shortening your workout, you will not be getting the full benefit of the exercise routine.

3. Germs

Today, people are more germ conscious than ever – and rightly so. Unfortunately, even though workout facilities typically promote health, stepping on to a stair master or treadmill that still has remnants of the previous user’s sweat is not only unappealing, but unhealthy.

4. Injury

Many gyms today have attendants who monitor the members as they exercise. However, not all of these gym employees are full-fledged fitness trainers who are familiar with the exact way to utilize the equipment. Incorrect instructions can – and often do – lead to serious injury. Therefore, it is likely much safer to study a particular workout routine that you are interested in starting before moving forward and receive proper training.

5. Noise

You would be hard pressed to find a gym today that doesn’t have loud music, televisions – or both – all playing at the same time. This, coupled with the noise of the machines, can make concentrating on your workout difficult at best. While some people prefer to wear headphones while jogging to the beat, others would rather take the time to concentrate both physically and mentally while working out. This is unlikely to be possible at a gym.

6. Distractions

Although most people enjoy talking with friends and acquaintances, while trying to concentrate on exercising, it can often be distracting to be interrupted by social activity. Working out at home can allow for much better concentration on your exercise – leading to much more effective benefits of the routine in the long run.

7. Self-Esteem

Gyms can sometimes tend to be a place for social activity as well as working out. In certain instances, though, those who may be just starting out or who are uncomfortable with their current physical condition, showing up at the gym alongside those who are in tip top shape can be a cause for lowered self esteem.

8. Lack of Variety

Most gyms offer a number of various machines for cardio and strength training. However, with the large number of workout routines that are now available on DVD, it is much easier – and more fun – to change up your moves on a regular basis outside of the gym. You are also likely to get more benefit too!

9. Fresh Air

One of the best reasons to get out of the gym for your exercise time is the fresh air that can be taken in while jogging, biking, or taking part in other types of exercise outdoors. While there are some areas of the country that have colder winter temperatures, if dressed appropriately, you can still get good exercise benefits outside all year long.

10. Travel Time

Travel time can also be a big drawback to working out in a gym as versus staying home. This can particularly be the case for those who work full time. Depending on the traffic in your area, you may be taking up an hour or more of your time just in travel to and from the gym. Alternatively, by participating in a workout at home, you can avoid the long wait times for machines, do away with the travel time in the car (and the extra gas expense), and get much more accomplished in a shorter period of time.

Hilary Rose is an exercise and nutrition writer for many fitness blogs. When she is not enjoying the outdoors, you can find her designing storage solutions for athletic equipment. Originally Published on: Jun 14, 2012

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Backpacking and Camping: Back to Basics

Tent for Camping, Backpacking, and Hiking in the mountains.

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You’ve got the tent, you’ve packed the rucksack…but have you thought of everything for a trip into the back country? Back country backpacking is where you head off into the ‘back of beyond,’ where a credit card is not going to buy you a way out of any trouble. You need to remember there may not be any sign of civilization for miles – and so you must choose your equipment accordingly. Traveling light is one thing, but you’ll need to remember the basics if your trip is to be safe and enjoyable. Define your needs when it comes to choosing your tent – how many does it need to sleep; what temperatures will you be facing; how well does it pack down for carrying? Can it be split up between two, three or four people? As a general rule, reckon on carrying around one kilo of tent equipment each for optimum comfort. So two of you can go for a 2-man, 2-kilo tent (Wild Country Zephyros 2 is an example,) three of you a 3-people, 3-kilo tent (MSR Elbow Room,) or four people a 4-person, 4-kilo version(Vango Equinox 450.) Select your rucksack with care too. Comfort is paramount on a long hike – consider the back carrying system carefully to minimize the strain on your back and shoulders. A hip belt will help alleviate the pressure on your shoulders and upper torso. Sleeping mats add to the comfort factor – and a good night’s rest will mean a fresher start the following day. Thermarest have a comprehensive range of sleeping mattresses to meet varying conditions.

Work Out Your Needs

Sleeping bags vary in warmth, weight and pack size – again, work out your needs according to probable temperatures and carrying capacity. A reliable compass or hand-help GPS is essential. Getting lost in the wilderness could be a disaster in waiting. Cooking equipment on a multi-day trip will ensure regular hot food and drinks. A good-quality cooking stove like the Trangia 25 or 27 includes a pan set for between two and four people. Just add water – and the requisite dehydrated pack or boil in a bag! A head lamp or hand held torch is a given. So too is a multi-tool. Leatherman and Wenger have an answer to most potential problems with pliers, knife, scissors, saw – and corkscrew! – all possible options. First aid kit, including plasters, bandages and sterile wipes. Waterproof matches and a small candle in case of torch failure. Water sterilizing tablets. Emergency whistle. A length of rope – always handy, just in case.

  • Always carry enough liquids; dehydration is a constant danger on long treks
  • Remember, a mobile phone may not always get a signal in remote areas

Nicki Williams writes for camping and outdoor specialists Gear-Zone, where you’ll find everything you need for a trip into the back country. Picture source: Compfight

Originally published 2012/07/13. 

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Believe It Or Not: How Yoga Can Change Your Life

Woman holding hand yoga posture

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Yoga is a lifestyle.  It’s a way of life and a way of looking at the world.  Most importantly, yoga is accessible to all.  There are dozens of different kinds of yoga.  If you didn’t like the few yoga classes you’ve tried, it simply means you haven’t found the right style for you.  Whatever your complaint, there is a style of yoga out there to suit your preference.  Yoga is for everyone and the truth is it can change your life.  Here’s how:

Patience

In any given yoga class you may be asked to slow down, speed up, hold it, rest, close your eyes, breathe, listen…listen to what?  Well, that’s for you to find out.  Imagine you’re holding a pose that’s incredibly challenging and screaming inwardly for the teacher to guide you towards release.  You’re sweating, you’re breathing.  “This is it,” you’re instructor says.  “This is yoga,” and you’re learning patience.  The very next week you’re standing in the longest grocery line ever and somehow it’s not so bad.

Strong Body, Strong Bones

You’ve heard it before: weight-bearing activity builds strong bones and strong bones mean reduced chances of osteoporosis or the loss of bone mass as we age.  Weight-bearing activity often conjures up images of body builders and endless repetitions holding free-weights in front of mirrors.  Not the fitness routine for you?  Try yoga.  Positions like plank, side plank, downward facing dog, and tree pose place added body weight on hands and feet.  Over time, this kind of activity prevents bone mass loss reducing the likelihood of certain age related diseases, not to mention the added muscle strength and endurance. 

Self-Confidence

“Oh, I can’t do yoga. I’m not flexible at all!”  I hear it all the time.  When acquaintances find out that I’m a yoga instructor, all kinds of self-inflicted judgments begin to fly, as if they are apologizing for their delinquency.  But honestly, saying you’re not flexible enough for yoga is like saying you’re too dirty to take a bath. Other protests to taking up a yoga practice: “I need to lose weight,”  “I’m not patient enough (see above),” “I’m not good at it.” The magic of yoga is that it helps you through these issues. 

Life Enhancement

Yoga is about experiencing each moment in life, noticing the details and being at peace with them.  This starts on the mat.  This amazing thing happens when you encounter a yoga pose that you think is impossible: you’ll encounter it again.  And when you do, you scoff and think you know how silly it is and how your body will never be able to do that but you give it a go.  Maybe you wobble, maybe you fall.  But the next time your instructor takes you through that pose you think maybe you’ll give it another go.  You do and eventually you get it.  This thing you thought you could never do, you’ve done.  It’s beautiful and suddenly, the world opens up.  Every thing you ever said you couldn’t do can now be measured against this pose — this pose that you now can perform with confidence.  And it will be hard not to bring this confidence into every other aspect of your life, including family and relationships, career building and health. If you want to pass on your wellness knowledge, you can even consider undergoing yoga teacher training or attending a massage therapy school to spread the love and joy to other apprehensive students.

Jazmine Green is an associate editor for LA YOGA Magazine who has written about yoga teacher training and massage therapy school programs. Jazmine lives and writes in Los Angeles, California.