This article originally appeared on Evolve MMA.
While the term “metabolism” refers merely to the chemical transformations that occur in your body in order to sustain life, it is most often referenced regarding the specific process of the body converting food to energy. For this reason, many weight loss and health sites promote methods which boost your metabolic rate, i.e., the efficiency at which your body breaks down food into calories, protein, and so on. It is generally understood that the higher your metabolism, the faster you will burn calories, the higher your energy levels will be, and the less excess calories you will have that are eventually stored as fat.
Your metabolic rate is determined by many things including your body type, gender, age, and fitness level. As you age your metabolic rate slows down and it becomes harder and harder to keep your energy levels high and rid yourself of that stubborn fat. For this reason, those approaching middle-age find themselves becoming more and more worried about their slowing metabolism.
Not all is lost though. There are many methods with which to either boost your metabolism or keep it functioning at a high level. A proper diet is one of the major methods – but for many, it is not enough. So what is the answer for those of us with a stubborn metabolism and the will to improve it? For more and more people, the most effective method is martial arts.
Martial Arts and Your Overall Health
Now the main reasons most of us are concerned about our metabolism are due to its effects on energy levels and weight gain. Luckily, there have been numerous scientific studies on the impact of martial arts on your metabolism, energy levels, and body composition for practitioners ranging from adolescents to the middle-aged. These studies have found that no matter what age you are, the physical and mental benefits of martial arts are exceptional.
The harder you push your physical fitness and challenge your body, the more your metabolism will adapt and improve to handle the workload.
Martial arts such as Muay Thai and kickboxing provide an intense full-body workout that benefits both your core muscles and cardiovascular levels. In a 1-hour Muay Thai or kickboxing class you can burn up to 1,000 calories. This type of workout ensures the prevention of new fat stores and the erodes old ones. What’s more, it effectively melts body fat because it feeds on FFAs (free fatty acids) to fuel you throughout your workout. A few classes a week is all it takes to start transforming your body. Upping your physical activity in this way lets your metabolism know that it won’t be taking a vacation anytime soon.
The diverse nature of the physical obstacles presented by martial arts ensures that your body is continually being forced to grow and improve – a direct challenge to the usual cause of a slowing metabolism: plateaus and unchallenging patterns. As we age, our body grows into our lifestyle. Even if you jog five miles every morning, if it is the only thing you do, your body will adapt to that reality and will slowly begin to fade in all other relevant attributes. A martial arts program pushes flexibility, cardio, strength, intelligence, etc. and is designed to continue to challenge you. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) often takes over ten years of extreme dedication to reach the highest levels. This means that if the will is there, you will always have room to grow (plus, it is a lot more fun than a typical run in most people’s opinion).
To drive this overall point on health home, here are some interesting facts from a studyregarding middle-aged martial arts practitioners (MAP) when compared to sedentary individuals (SI):
- The percentage of body fat for MAP’s was 18.9% compared to 30.8% for the sedentary group. This means that many martial artists will have about half the body fat of those who do not regularly exercise. This is significant since this is at an age where many begin to really struggle with body fat (typically due to a slowing metabolism).
- The MAP group could perform 47 pushups in a minute, while the SI group could only perform 18.6.
- The MAP group could perform 66 sit-ups in a minute, while the SI group could only perform 37.
- The MAP group could balance for 61.8 seconds, while the SI group could only balance for 26.2 seconds.
- MAP practitioners “displayed greater aerobic capacity, balance, flexibility, muscle endurance, and strength, and less body fat than the [SI] matched for age and sex.”
There Aren’t Any Excuses Anymore
What about those who want to boost their metabolism and feel better, but are getting up there in years? One great option, on top of the aforementioned Muay Thai and kickboxing, is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
BJJ has become a favorite of martial arts practitioners of every size and age. BJJ is the type of martial art that is built around positioning and intelligence rather than brute strength, and the internet is full of accounts of practitioners well into their senior years who have become BJJ regulars. It is a fantastic metabolism boosting workout and a fun way to stay in shape and maintain flexibility.
The benefits for older individuals goes well beyond metabolism or weight loss. In one study it was found that 12-weeks of BJJ in men over the age of 60 was able to improve “upper body flexibility… upper body strength, lower body flexibility, and motor agility/dynamic balance; and a large effect on lower body strength and aerobic endurance.” This increase in functional fitness has an exponential effect in increasing quality of life. The better you move, the more you move. The more you move, the better you look and feel.
BJJ provides much the same in terms of benefits no matter what age or physical fitness level you are at. If you are looking to boost your metabolism and/or get into shape and are hesitant to dip your toes into the martial arts – just take a look at all of the positive life-affirming accounts out there. BJJ just may be your doorway to not only a better metabolism but a more active and fulfilling life.