Boxing is a combat sport that has been practiced since before the time of ancient Greece and the original Olympics. It has been used to train people for performance in the art of striking, as well as general physical conditioning.

Recently, it has become more popular as a form of exercise. When people box for fitness, they often use a punching bag, avoiding the physical contact that can lead to concussions and other injuries. However, boxing for fitness still provides boxing’s inherent benefits.

Typical boxing exercise includes movement and footwork drills to evade punches, as well as punching drills on equipment like heavy bags, speed bags, and focus mitts. Boxing can also be performed virtually via gaming systems that have movement sensors.

In addition, many boxing exercise programs involve other conditioning exercises, such as jumping rope, calisthenics, and running.

Practicing the sport is not only a great way to improve your physical fitness but also a fun way to challenge your mind and body.

This article lists 6 benefits of boxing, all back by science.

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Irina Efremova/Stocksy United

Boxers must have the ability to perform frequent bouts of high intensity activity during a training session or boxing match. The sport is a form of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and can push your body to repeatedly sustain intense bouts of activity (1).

High intensity interval training has been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease (2).

Plus, boxing can improve your aerobic fitness. In fact, one study found that boxer rankings were directly correlated with markers of heart health (3).

High intensity boxing training has been shown to decrease body fat and improve overall body composition more than other activities like brisk walking (4).

For example, a 150-pound (68-kg) person can burn 390–558 calories, or more if conditioning exercises are included, in a 60-minute session. The number of calories burned will vary by the intensity level, as well as factors like whether you’re hitting a bag or sparring (5).

Even exergaming, which involves simulated boxing performed using a gaming system, effectively burns calories (6).

This may help increase activity levels among people who may be less inclined to participate in a live training or exercise program. In addition, many people may be more comfortable with a gaming system in their hands, compared with a pair of boxing gloves.

While most people may think punching power only comes from the shoulder, the act of throwing a punch involves the entire body.

A good punch involves the lower limbs pushing against the ground and the coordination of the rest of the body to deliver power through the strike. Therefore, the lower limbs, as well as the core muscles, are a significant part of the punching movement (7).

Boxing is a movement-intensive activity. It involves coordinated footwork, developing reactive movement strategies to changing conditions, and the muscular strength mentioned above.

These all help improve attributes of balance. In fact, one study found that a boxing program improved balance among people recovering from a stroke (8).

What’s more, boxing has been used as a method to treat Parkinson’s disease — a debilitating neurological disease that affects the body’s ability to perform complex movements. As the disease progresses, it increases a person’s risk of falling.

In a recent study on decreasing fall risk and improving balance scores among people affected by Parkinson’s disease, boxing training improved these issues (9).

There’s a truly cathartic effect that comes from letting out your stress in a healthy way, such as by punching a bag or focus mitt.

Boxing training can vary in intensity throughout a workout, although most boxing training and conditioning programs tend to follow a HIIT protocol, which can help relieve stress.

Research has observed mood improvements among those who practice this type of training (10, 11).

Boxing and HIIT training, in general, have been shown to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, helping decrease stress on the blood vessels.

Elevated blood pressure is a precursor to experiencing more serious events like heart attacks and strokes (12, 13).

One study found a significant reduction in blood pressure when comparing a HIIT boxing program to a moderate intensity cardiovascular training program (3).

Boxing training is a form of exercise that involves footwork, punching, and evasion movements to simulate the activities involved in the sport of boxing.

It’s often combined with other conditioning activities, such as jumping rope and calisthenics, which increases the intensity of each training session.

Boxing can help improve your heart health, body composition, and strength, as well as lower your blood pressure and aid weight loss.

Most of all, boxing is a fun way to get some exercise and release stress in a safe and healthy way.