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Benefits

Intro

Research into the benefits of martial arts training.

Personality profiles

A 1967 study by Kroll and Carlson, Discriminant function and hierarchical grouping analysis of karate participants' personality profiles, in Research Quarterly.

The study noted that combat sports may provide a chance to display prowess or masculinity, to develop self-confidence, release tension, and reduce aggression. Karate (taekwondo) is suggested as having several advantages as a combat physical education system in that:
  • Women may participate.
  • As a method of self-defense, it may be considered superior to amateur boxing or wrestling.
  • It effectively develops certain muscular strengths.
  • Emphasis on wholesome character attributes and etiquette help reduce asocial tendencies.

Reduction of stress

A 1998 study by Berger and Owen, Stress Reduction and Mood Enhancement in Four Exercise Modes: Swimming, Body Conditioning, Hatha Yoga and Fencing, in Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, looked at the effects of swimming, body conditioning (weight lifting and running), hatha yoga (an eastern, non-martial art) and fencing (a non-eastern, combat art) on stress reduction. They concentrated on aspects of exercise that were thought to best provide psychological benefits, especially stress reduction, such as:
  • Aerobic aspect.
  • Non-competitive aspect (competition was assumed to be inherently stressful).
  • Predictable elements (so exerciser may tune out environment).
  • Rhythmical nature (to encourage the mind to wander).

The last two aspects help reduce stress by providing a "time out" for the mind. Hobbies and exercise reduce anxiety and depression. Anger and fatigue are decreased only with exercise.

Other aspects of physical activities that reduce stress included:
  • Frequency. Since benefits from exercise are usually short term, one must exercise regularly.
  • Intensity. Keep it moderate.
  • Duration. At least 20 to 30 minutes. 
  • Enjoyability. The activity should be enjoyable since one is not likely to exercise if it is distasteful, and doing something you do not enjoy is not relaxing.

The study found no long-term effects on mood but found that both low and high-intensity exercise improved short-term mood. Swimming showed little effect on mood, but the authors noted that swimmers were in a good mood before their exercise period began, thus masking any mood improvements.

Increase in bone density

A 2003 study has found that children who jump every day increase their bone density, which may help prevent bone loss later in life. When a child jumps, the bones flex, which triggers them to increase their density. The study found that children who jump five times three times a day had a significant increase in bone density. Therefore, when children are doing jumping jacks in taekwondo class and are practicing jump kicks, they are getting stronger and perfecting their techniques, but they are also helping prevent bone loss in the later years of their lives.

Martial arts training is an effective workout

A study in the April 2004 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that a dynamic martial arts workout is just as effective as any other balanced workout. The study compared nine people who worked out twice a week in soo bahk do with nine sedentary people of similar ages, blood pressure, and resting heart rates. The martial artists had markedly better strength, flexibility, balance, and aerobic capacity. The martial artists could do twice and many sit-ups and three times as many pushups as the sedentary group. The sedentary group had 12 percent more body fat and could hold their balance an average of only 26 seconds compared to the 62 seconds of the martial artists.

Lessens chances of getting Alzheimer's disease

A study in the April 2005 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience found that active mice, genetically bred to develop Alzheimer's disease, were far less likely than their sedentary counterparts to develop plaque deposits in the brain, a common "marker" of Alzheimer's. Another study in the September 2005 issue of the same journal found that running greatly stimulated neurogenesis, the production of new brain cells, in older mice.

An October 2005 paper published in by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that those who engaged in a robust physical activity at least twice a week since their youth or middle age had a 50 percent lower chance of developing dementia and a 60 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's than those who were sedentary. We all know that the mind has a lot of control over the body, but the body also has a great influence on the mind. Since physical sports affect the body, then it follows that participation in sports affects mood and even behavior. Taekwondo training may influence the bettering of one's mood.

Develops self-esteem

Richman and Rehberg, in a 1986 study, The Development of Self-esteem Through the Martial Arts, in International Journal of Sports Psychology, examined self-esteem before a sport karate tournament and the effect of winning a trophy during the competition.

Students were grouped into beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert groups. Beginners showed lower self-esteem than the other three groups while the other three were not significantly different from each other. When compared to members of their own school, self-esteem was related to self-perception, but not to self-ratings of sportsmanship or discipline.

The authors concluded that 1-2 months of karate training was enough to raise self-esteem. Measures on the groups that trained for longer periods showed no changes in this measure. The self-perception of ability was related to self-esteem. Self-perception of physical condition and self-discipline were also important to self-esteem, and self-esteem predicted performance. The study found that Karate students have a realistic appreciation of their own abilities and that possession of these abilities is related to their self-esteem. Training in Karate does not seem to result in unrealistic appraisals of one's abilities.

A 1990 study by Ozer and Bandura, Mechanisms Governing Empowerment Effects: A Self-Efficacy Analysis, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, looked at the concept of perceived self-efficacy. They found that self-esteem was related to self-discipline and that trophy winners had greater self-esteem before the competition than did non-winners. Reciprocal inhibition therapy is using a calming activity that evokes a response inhibitory to anxiety at the same time as an anxiety evoking stimulus is presented to the patient. This linkage of stimuli weakens the bond between the anxiety-producing stimulus and the buildup of anxiety.

Lessens anxiety

A 1971 study by Gershman and Stedman, Oriental Defense Exercises as Reciprocal Inhibitors of Anxiety, in the Journal of Behavioral Therapy, found that kung-fu exercises took the claustrophobic subject's anxiety levels to a rating of 0 in less than 1 minute. Graduated exposure to confined spaces while doing kung-fu exercises allowed the subject to experience a fast recovery from claustrophobia and remain comfortable at 6 months after the treatment. In the second case, the researchers linked karate exercises and flying, reducing the subject's anxiety levels to zero in 2 sessions. This approach was taken after trying relaxation techniques that were deemed to be too slow. Again, 6 months after treatment, the subject remained well.

Higher self-concept in women

A 1990 study, Finkenberg, Effect of Participation in taekwondo on College Women's Self-concept, in Perceptual and Motor Skills, compared women in taekwondo classes to women in general health classes (the control) using the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale. Compared to the control, consumer health class, the taekwondo class showed no difference between self-criticism, moral-ethical measures, family values or behavior. The taekwondo class did show higher self-concept also showed higher physical, personal, social identity, and satisfaction self-concept than did the controls. The taekwondo class seemed to improve self-concept without affecting other social values and behaviors.

Other studies

A study at Indiana University in Bloomington showed that four hours of lifestyle activities a day, such as vacuuming and walking your dog, may significantly lower your blood pressure.

A study at Leeds Metropolitan University in Britain revealed that engaging in physical activity during your lunch hour may improve your mood and productivity.

Paul Adlard at the University of California at Irvine found that mice who exercised in a running wheel developed less plaque, the precursor to Alzheimer's.

Research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland found that people who work out regularly cut their chances of developing gum disease by 40%.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southeastern Medical Center found that 30 minutes of aerobic activity 3 times a week reduced moderate depressive symptoms by about 50%.

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