Archive for Health and Fitness

Martial Arts and Physical Fitness

If working out at the gym is not your thing, martial arts can be an engaging alternative to bring more physical activity into your life.

According to a recent article published in the JAMA & Archives of Internal Medicine, Tai Chi showed a greater improvement in quality of life for heart failure patients involved in the study.

Tai chi is a technique using movements and positions, systematically. Tai chi is believed to have been developed in 12th Century China.

The study was conducted on 100 individuals who fit the profile as an outpatient with systolic heart failure with the average age of 67, to engage in a 12-week Tai Chi exercise program.

Additional improvements were seen in self-efficacy and in mood, according to the study.

According to the CDC, martial arts can be considered a moderate to vigorous intensity exercise. This depends on the type of activity engaged in.

For older adults who have trouble sleeping doing martial arts may offer an alternative to sleeping medication according to research supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with the National Institutes of Health Journal of Sleep.

A study found that for older adults engaging in Tai Chi Chih (a westernized version of Tai Chi) slept better. Tai chi chih has the added advantage of being a physical activity many older adults can participate in.

Martial arts can also be an alternative to traditional exercise to help lose weight.

According to reports, obesity has more than doubled in the Unites States since the 1970s. There is a need for children and adults become more active to balance their caloric intake.

According to the report for 2010 on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, physical activity need to be engaged in each week for substantial health benefits.

Other benefits from martial arts activities include gaining more confidence and focus in learning your body’s limitations and how to control oneself.


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and its training benefits

When it comes to training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, one of the reasons why many people love training is because it provides several benefits. The benefits go beyond what people associate with normal working out or training. Apart from receiving an intense workout, training also instills a sense of pride and accomplishment with students that participate. People that enroll in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training feel a sense of confidence and power. For many people, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu becomes more than just a way to stay in shape, it becomes a way of life, a guiding path that they use to make decisions in their everyday life.

The benefits are remarkable because those students that go through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training find that they are driven to succeed and because of the connected feeling with other students. Students roll together, train together and find themselves surrounded by people that are like-minded. The people that you are going to meet during Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training are not people that have an interest in hurting one another, but care more about bringing positivity to a sport that allows them to work together to get better, while simultaneously flourishing as an individual.

While going through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training, you are going to see that you will increase your cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and start losing body fat. The best thing is that these things are happening without you feeling like you are powering through a chore. This is because you are having fun. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training is not like going to the gym, placing headphones on your head isolate you from the rest of the world and mindlessly get your workout in because you feel you it is required. It represents a social, supportive, and fun atmosphere that provides you with the same benefits that you can get from even the most advanced gym routine. If you have tried getting motivated for a regular gym visit and just could not put yourself to complete the workout, this would be the perfect alternative to try.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu & Stress Relief

However, the benefits to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training are more than just physical. Students find that they can reach a new level mentally as well. They have the determination to push harder and get better. Once people realize that techniques that were previously thought of as unattainable can be achieved through practice, it only further encourages them to try harder. Whether you are a stay-at-home mother, working a high-pressure job, or simply want to become more active, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training can provide an excellent stress reliever.

Ultimately, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training promotes healthy living, wellness, camaraderie, respect and discipline rather than violence. If you are interested in learning more about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu trainingbe sure to stop in or e-mail for more information about what options you may have available to you.

Martial Arts Benefits Anyone Over 40

It’s not just for fighting: new research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that people in their 40′s and 50′s who regularly practice martial arts demonstrate astounding levels of physical fitness in comparison to people the same age who don’t exercise at all. The study subjects who practiced martial arts had 12% less body fat, were able to do twice as many sit-ups, had enhanced flexibility and leg strength, demonstrated a stronger immune system and showed greatly improved balance.

It’s not surprising, of course: martial arts– even mild forms like Tai Chi– have long been known to confer tremendous anti-aging health benefits to their followers. Throughout Asia, it’s not uncommon to see large groups of elderly (people in their 60′s, 70′s and 80′s) practicing TaiChi at sunrise in the community parks. Despire their age, these people have better aerobic conditioning, balance, strength, flexibility and coordination than many typical Americans in their 30′s who are already suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity and cancer. People who practice Tai Chi simply don’t experience those diseases with anywhere near the frequency. As a result, they live longer, healthier, happier lives.

Any form of martial arts or physical discipline will produce similar results, by the way: Tai Chi and Pilates are two of my favorites, but you could also take up dancing or gymnastics, too. More aggressive forms of martial arts such as kickboxing and Tai Kwon Do are also excellent for conditioning, although they are typically more focused on combat than is really necessary. (To be healthy, you don’t have to train for combat. You just have to move your body.)

Old Wives Tales of MMA Conditioning

We have all seen it before, and it’s an awful thing to watch especially in combat sports. It’s the middle of a fight, everything’s going well, and before you know it, the fighter “gasses out” and just stops fighting. Sometimes he or she will be saved by the bell, and sometimes he or she will even able to defend themselves enough to continue and regain their strength. More often than not, however, the fighter is left defenseless and the opponent takes advantage and ends the fight.

Countless fighters have lost fights this way – even some of the biggest matches of their careers. And it’s not because their opponents had more skill or better strategy, but because they gassed out. From amateurs to top professionals, regardless of the level of competition, gassing out is the great equalizer in all combat sports.

Given the obvious importance of making it through an entire fight without gassing out – not to mention what’s often at stake for a fighter’s career – we need to know why so many fighters gas out in the first place. This would be understandable, to a degree, if we’re talking solely about amateur athletes, but when world titles change hands because one of the fighters gassed out, it’s clear this phenomenon has little relation to skill level or experience. In fact, it’s rare to see an entire card, even at the UFC level, without seeing someone gassing out.

We see these debates online all the time. People want to know why fighters did or didn’t do certain things when they lose, and when it’s because they gas out, the near-universal consensus is that it happened because they “weren’t in shape.” After all, when you’re out of shape, you’re bound to gas out sooner or later – and when you’re in shape, it means you can always last bell-to-bell, right? Sound familiar?

The casual fan believes the answer to this last question is a resounding, “yes,” but the real answer is far more complex than you’ve been led to believe. If you don’t know anything about the sport and you watch a UFC card, it probably doesn’t look much different from a bar brawl. If you’ve tried MMA for even a day, however, you understand and appreciate how incredibly technical and precise the sport is. In this same spirit, gassing out is far more complex than most people realize.

The more you understand about how energy production in combat sports really works, the more obvious it becomes that thinking fighters gas simply because they’re out of shape is akin to believing that getting in a lot of street fights qualifies you for the UFC, remember Kimbo Slice? If you don’t understand the tremendous skill involved in fighting, this may seem logical, but anyone who has ever set foot in a gym and trained knows it’s just not that simple. How many arm chair UFC fighters do you know?

To begin to form an understanding of the bigger picture with regard to conditioning, gassing out and being in shape for combat sports, we need to start with a clean slate and put an end to many of the common myths surrounding the topic. Despite its importance and the frequency with which gassing out occurs, there are more misconceptions about this aspect of the sport than almost any other.

He Built Too Much Lactic Acid

Despite the fact that scientists have known that this is not the case for many years, this myth is all-too-frequently cited as the underlying mechanism of what happens when a fighter gasses out – even by otherwise knowledgeable people. The truth, however, is that lactic acid is never the reason fighters gas out. This is because it doesn’t even exist in the human body (Robergs RA, 2004). There is never any lactic acid in your muscles, either during fights or otherwise.

Instead, a substance known as lactate is produced when your body breaks down carbohydrates and turns them into an energy source your muscles can use through a process called anaerobic (without oxygen) glycolysis. Rather than causing fatigue in your muscles, the chemical steps that result in lactic formation actually help prevent fatigue, and are an absolutely vital process in energy production. In other words, lactate is your friend, not your foe.

He Ran Out of Gas!

This is a catch-all term that essentially means a fighter is running low on energy, and it’s another one that seems to make sense on the surface, yet fails to hold up under the microscope of exercise physiology.

The truth is that the chemical fuel on which your muscles and your entire body run, Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), never drops below 60% of resting levels in working muscles, even during the most intense periods of exercise and exertion (Westerblad H, 2010). Fights also don’t last long enough for your muscles to run out of glycogen, the stored sugar used to make ATP.

You don’t fatigue because your muscles run out of energy. It doesn’t happen, because your body is smarter than you. If your car runs out of gas, you just end up getting stuck somewhere. By contrast, if your muscles actually did ever run completely out of ATP, there would be serious cellular damage, and you’d be in major trouble.

To prevent this from happening, the body has a number of failsafe mechanisms in place to make sure your muscles never run as low on ATP as people run their cars on gas. The entire metabolic system is designed to make sure there is always gas left in your tank. It may look like a fighter has no energy left whatsoever when he’s gassing out, but in actuality, his tank is more than half full.

He’s just out of shape.

We’ve all heard fighters say they feel like they’re in the best shape of their lives going into fights – or talking about how they’re able to “go forever” in training – only to end up gassing out in the second round. What happens here? Were these guys not in the kind of shape they thought they were? Are all fighters who gas out in bad shape?

There are two sides to the equation here: energy production and energy expenditure. If you don’t look at both sides, you’re failing to see the whole picture, and this makes it easy to formulate incorrect assumptions. Energy management is really what determines whether a fighter can go bell-to-bell – or ends up gassed out and face-down on the canvas.

Picture two fighters who are both in the same shape. They’re about to fight each other. Fighter A is determined to finish the fight quickly and loves to knock people out, so he swings for the fences with every punch and is constantly pressing forward. Fighter B, by contrast, is highly defensive. He’s patient and carefully picks his shots – always waiting for a mistake to capitalize on before exploding and expending a lot of energy.

It’s not hard to see which fighter is more likely to end up gassing out. Fighter A is constantly expending more energy at a much faster rate than Fighter B, so consequently, he’ll fatigue much more quickly. If he can’t finish the fight early, he’ll likely be significantly slower and gassed out by the end.

This difference in energy management – how and when each fighter chooses to use the energy they’re capable of producing – plays the biggest role in how quickly they fatigue. A fighter can be in great shape, but if he manages his energy poorly, he’ll still end up gassed before a fighter who’s smarter about his pacing and energy expenditure. This is why fighters gas out at all levels of the sport. The top professionals are typically in much better shape than the guys at the bottom, and they’re still producing a great deal more energy. No matter what kind of shape they’re in, however, they can still gas if they don’t use their energy wisely.

Why fighters really gas out!

To understand exactly why poor energy management can lead to gassing out, you have to examine the basics of energy production. We’ve established that muscles don’t fatigue because of lactic acid build-up, and they’re not running out of energy, so what’s really happening?

Although science can’t fully explain the mechanisms yet, it’s well documented that the greater force and power a muscle produces, the faster it fatigues (Enoka RM, 1992). This is why you can’t run a mile at the same pace you can sprint a hundred meters. The more energy your body produces anaerobically (without oxygen), the more power it can generate – but the faster it will fatigue. Higher power activities require ATP to be supplied at a greater rate, so more of it has to come from anaerobic energy production.

Every fighter differs in how much energy they can produce aerobically and how much they can produce anaerobically – and there’s an inverse relationship between the two (Wadley G, 1998). The more energy a fighter can produce aerobically, the better his endurance will be, but the less force and power he’ll be capable of generating. By contrast, fighters capable of the highest power levels also experience the greatest rate of fatigue. This inherent tradeoff between a high work rate (power) and the ability to maintain it, combined with management of energy expenditure, provides the big picture of why fighters really gas out.

Fighters capable of producing a great deal of energy aerobically and managing it effectively will last from bell-to-bell every time. Fighters who can’t produce as much aerobically and have to rely on the anaerobic side – or fighters who don’t know how to pace themselves – are much more likely to gas out every time. The truth here is that energy production and management is as complex and variable as the fight-specific skills that are being fueled. To the educated eye, gassing out is not a simple issue at all, but yet another piece of a complex puzzle that ultimately determines whose hand is raised and who is left lying on the canvas.

Enoka RM, S. D. (1992). Neurobiology of Muscle Fatigue. Journal of Applied Physiology , 72:1631-1648.

Robergs RA, G. F. (2004). Biochemistry of exercise induced metabolic acidosis. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol , 287: R502–R516.

Wadley G, L. R. (1998). The relationship between repeated sprint ability and the aerobic and anerobic energy systems. Journal of Science Med Sport , 1:100-110.

Westerblad H, B. J. (2010). Skeletal Muscle: Energy Metabolism, Fiber Types, Fatigue and Adaptability. Experimental Cell Research , 3093-3099.

How can Martial Arts benefit you and your family?

How can Martial Arts benifit you and your family?

An article published in Adolescence in 1998 described how martial arts programs decrease violent behavior in children and teens.

A 2001 study published in the psychology journal Adolescence showed a vast improvement in good behavior among children who took martial arts classes for just 90 minutes a week.

Carleton University conducted a study published in psychology today stating that among other benefits; children in martial arts have lower levels of anxiety, greater sense of responsibility, and are less likely to take foolish risks.

A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology showed that children who participated in martial art training had better behavior and higher scores on a mental math test.

An article in the December 2002 issue of The International Journal of Contemporary Family Therapy recommended families take martial art classes because of the many positive effects martial arts training provides to family members.