5 Mental Health Benefits of Kickboxing

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Kickboxing has been growing in popularity, and for good reason—it is an excellent form of all-around exercise, proving both strength and cardiovascular benefits. With the ability to punch and kick bags, pads, and other gear, it is no wonder that many people find kickboxing an effective stress buster as well.

Mental Health Benefits of Kickboxing

To find out more about the mental health benefits of kickboxing, we spoke to Raquel “Rocky” Harris who has won titles in Karate, Kickboxing, and Muay Thai. She traveled with Team USA and secured a Gold Medal in her first World Championship tournament. She is also a USA Boxing Coach certified FightCamp trainer.

Kickboxing is a combat sport involving two competitors, each directing foreceful strikes with the hands, elbows, knees, shins, and feet toward the other. Styles include Muay Thai, American or European kickboxing, Chinese San Shou, and French Savate.

Regulates Mood

"When the weight of our stress becomes overwhelming, our mind needs to release mental pressure through physical action. This would provide temporary relief and increase the production of endorphins. That’s why punching and kicking a heavy bag feels good. It gives you the opportunity to channel your vent through strikes plus reshape chemical imbalances. Regular training in kickboxing will help relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and ADHD," explains Harris.

Mood improvements, in general, can be seen from participating in physical activity due to endorphin release—chemicals in your brain that play a role in mood regulation and feelings of happiness, euphoria, and excitement.

Busts Stress

Kickboxing is an excellent stress buster, as mentioned above. Research shows that regular exercise such as kickboxing training can build resiliency to stress. Similar to how exercise can regulate your mood, it can help with stress reduction through endorphin production.

The intense level of cardiovascular demand that is necessary for kickboxing has been shown to release these feel-good chemicals, effectively reducing feelings of stress.

Increases Confidence

"Kickboxing is a rewarding journey. Beyond fitness, you are contributing to your own personal growth and technical skills. Persevering through a round in kickboxing or stringing combinations will improve your self-esteem. Breaking through obstacles in honor of your commitment to this journey will influence your opinion of yourself," says Harris.

Research backs up Harris's claims—participation in kickboxing is shown to require and improve self-confidence, motivation, dispositional hope and optimism, mental toughness, resiliency, and adaptive perfectionism.

Learning the techniques in kickboxing can provide confidence in your ability to defend yourself as well. You may feel more at ease in certain spaces knowing you have the skills to protect yourself if needed. Of course, always practice safety and precautions in any circumstance.

Boosts Motivation and Ability to Complete Tasks

"Every kickboxing workout is an opportunity to create meaningful moments. From finishing a challenging round, sudden comprehension of a strike, or recognizing a difference in your output.

Think of these moments as a deck of cards. Each time you add to the deck, you create more experiences to pull from then use later as a catalyst for completing a new task.  What could be more motivating than a personal “you got this” reminder?" says Harris.

Following the routines involved in centering much of your activity around your kickboxing practice can lead to lasting effects in motivation to maintain a healthy active lifestyle.

Improves Memory, Focus and Sharpness

"Complex kickboxing combinations require mental effort. To perform, you have to memorize the order then you have to eliminate your surroundings and focus. With focus, you can continue the movements for an entire round. Challenging yourself to continue a pattern for an entire round will improve your overall memory, focus, and sharpness," explains Harris.

Kickboxing techniques require balance and coordination. These types of movements have been shown to improve brain functioning and cognitive functioning. Balance training such as that required to stand on one leg and kick, knee, or spin, leads to memory and spatial awareness improvements.

Cardio "Kickboxing" vs. Traditional Kickboxing

There are two main types of kickboxing classes, the kind you find at big box gyms that are typically titled "cardio kickboxing" and the type found at niche training centers that teach the fundamentals and advanced skills of traditional kickboxing.

If you want a good aerobic workout and aren't interested in technical skills, the big box version might suit you. If you want to gain skills and learn specific techniques, try your hand at a more traditional style.

Kickboxing Workouts to Try

Here are some resources to try if you'd like to learn more about kickboxing or perform a kickboxing-inspired workout:

A Word From Verywell

Kickboxing is well-known for its benefits to mental health, especially as a stress reliever and safe way to relieve tension. Centering your physical activity around the habitual practice of kickboxing has many carryovers into your personal wellbeing including confidence building, and improved brain health.

Whether you prefer cardio based kickboxing-inspired group exercise classes, training for the techniques of kickboxing as a sport, or working out in your living room to kickboxing-inspired sessions, you can experience the benefits this sport has to offer for yourself.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.