During the last five years, women’s interest and participation in the sport of boxing has been on an unprecedented rise. In addition to women’s boxing being introduced for the first time at the 2012 London Olympic Games, female interest in boxing and MMA has doubled between 2002 and 2012[i], and of course UFC 193: Rousey vs Holm was one of the most talked about UFC matches of 2015.
Touted as a complete workout combining cardio, endurance, strength and coordination, boxing offers a host of benefits, many of which go above and beyond a killer left hook. Here are seven ways that boxing benefits women:
- Mental and Physical Toughness. Sure, at first glance of course boxing builds physical toughness. Fighters learn not only how to administer an effective blow, but also how to block themselves from receiving one, creating resilience within the body. Sparring with a partner also teaches a boxer how to break past mental hurdles. While it may feel difficult to get back up after being on the receiving end of a roundhouse, when faced with the choice of either a) toughening up and getting back at it or b) getting kicked again, boxers develop a special skill of pushing past and overcoming pain points – an ability that can translate to all areas of life.
- Emotional Release. Boss got you down? Partner pissing you off? Unleash your aggressions (minus the assault charge) by taking it out on the focus mitts. Specifically in contact-based boxing (as opposed to cardio kickboxing where there’s typically no contact), making physical contact with the focus mitts allows your rage to fly freely in a controlled setting, allowing tendons & ligaments to adapt and become resilient, while developing productive skills of speed, accuracy and sharp reflexes.
- Composure, Grace and Poise. In life, the ability to maintain a poker face helps women be better negotiators, handle conflict, and get a read on those around her. Through boxing, especially when sparring with an adversary, ladies learn how to remain composed when met with the element of surprise and how to react quickly and confidently. Also, ballet isn’t the only sport that creates grace – boxing demands acute coordination, boosting the brain-body connection for more fluid movements.
- Confidence. Want a shot of confidence? Hear the sound your fist or elbow makes when coming into determined, strong, contact with a focus mitt. Unmasking your own strength, that you may not have even been aware was within you, helps you realize how truly powerful you are, unleashing the confidence within.
- Heart Benefits. Forget the bikini, that’s not what this is about. What a sport like boxing is about though is building a strong, healthy body. Boxing demands excellent physical conditioning – nobody gets away with being lazy in this sport. As both an aerobic and an anaerobic workout, a solid boxing workout will increase the heart rate and strengthen the heart’s muscles, reducing the risk of cardiovascular complications like strokes and heart attacks.
- Muscle Building and Metabolism Boosting. Boxing especially challenges key muscle groups – legs, chest and shoulders. Whether you’re delivering kicks, jabs, crosses and hooks, or you’re holding the pads for a partner, you’re building lean muscle which in turn boosts metabolism. Hint: high metabolic burn equals highly-efficient calorie burning for faster shedding of fat!
- Empowerment through Self-Defense. Proactively learning the skills to defend one’s self is invaluable, if ever faced with a challenging situation. Learning how to safely and effectively use techniques like punches, kicks, throwing knees and elbows can be lifesaving skills to keep in your self-defense toolbox.
For men and women alike, boxing certainly provides a workout that delivers mental, physical and emotional benefits. However, especially for women, boxing provides a safe space to release pent-up aggression that has a tendency to build within us, while sharpening skills that serve both inside and outside the ring. There’s never been a better time to fight like a girl.
Jessica Sparrow is the owner of Foxy Kickboxing, western Canada’s premiere women’s-only kickboxing program with over 75 locations across BC, AB and SK. No stranger to the camera, Jessica has been featured as an expert personal trainer on TV and has also appeared in fitness DVD workouts. As an amateur boxing, Jessica won the Senior Novice 57kg Alberta Provincial title in 2015 and is working toward competing at a national level in 2016.