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6 Ways Boxing Workouts Benefit Your Mental and Physical Health

Consider these perks before you start throwing your next punch.

By Kells McPhillipsMarch 11, 2024


Throwing a punch in the name of fitness comes with some serious benefits—just ask the 6.7 million boxers in the US. Hitting a bag (or the air) can help you channel your emotions and level up your fitness, according to Peloton instructor Kendall Toole

If you’ve been grappling with the idea of adding boxing to your workout schedule, but feel intimidated by the movements or sequences, you’re in luck. Ahead, Kendall offers up the basics of what makes boxing great exercise and tips on how to add it to your workout regimen. 

Is Boxing Good Exercise?

“Boxing is one of the most dynamic workouts you can do because it integrates so many different movement styles,” Kendall says. Offensive moves, such as jabs and crosses, as well as defensive moves, such as ducking and bobbing, can make your heart race and leave you dripping in sweat.

Does Boxing Build Muscle? 

Yes. As a form of resistance training, boxing requires your muscles to counter an external force. In the weight room, this type of training may look like picking up dumbbells or a barbell and squatting, deadlifting, or doing bicep curls. The resistance, in all of these cases, is the added weight. 

In boxing, the act of making contact with the bag or the air provides this counterforce. “When you have contact with a bag or even just the air, you’re flexing your muscles,” Kendall says. “At the end of the punch, you're in contraction.” This places stress on your muscles, which, over time, can cause muscle hypertrophy or an increase in muscle size. 

Ultimately, boxing is a great combination of cardio and strength. “Your heart rate is so elevated, you're building your lung capacity, you're building your fast-twitch muscle [fibers, and] you're building your ability to react and respond,” Kendall says. The list goes on. 

6 Benefits of Boxing

Sure, it’s an effective workout, but what are some of the more specific benefits of boxing? Here, Kendall breaks them down. 

Boxing May Help Your Heart

Boxing is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), a type of workout in which you complete challenging bouts of effort with short rests in between. This type of exercise is a well-researched way to strengthen your heart: A 2019 meta-analysis published in PLos One found that HIIT reduced cardiovascular disease risk factors, including cholesterol and VO2 max levels, in overweight and obese adults.

It’s a Full Body Workout

You may assume boxing is primarily an upper body workout. Well, think again. Research on professional boxers found that your entire body, including your lower body and trunk, is fully engaged in this movement. As your body pivots to strike the bag or the air, you engage your core and solidify your foundation.

“It’s really a full body [workout],” Kendall says. “Footwork is so important because if you don't know where your weight is placed or how to move around a ring, you're not going to last in that fight very long.” Basically, if you’re not experiencing boxing as a full body workout, check your form. 

Boxing May Improve Your Hand-Eye Coordination

Learning how to find your mark and hit it accurately could improve your hand-eye coordination. And while this skill may seem trivial relative to your fitness goals, it’s actually a big deal. Better hand-eye coordination can bolster your overall finer motor skills—which tend to decrease as you age. A 2017 systematic review published in the European Review of Aging and Physical Activity found that a high level of physical activity appeared to boost initial motor learning. While more research needs to be done in this area, bolstering your hand-eye coordination can help you maintain your ability to do everyday tasks, such as press buttons on a remote, text on your phone, or sew a button—even as you age. 

Boxing Could Better Your Balance

Learning to jab, cross, and duck without losing your balance is a key part of boxing. Over time, your ability to roll with the punches and stay standing will improve—and that’s not just a win for your exercise routine. Balance is an essential element of functional fitness. As you age, falling becomes more of a health risk. Learning how to stay on your feet can keep you healthy and mobile. Good balance can also make you a better overall athlete. Whether you’re walking, running, biking, or rock climbing, maintaining your center of gravity is crucial.  

Boxing Could Help Lower Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can cause serious health issues, including strokes and heart attacksA small 2015 study published in BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation found that participants who completed a HIIT boxing program had a greater reduction in blood pressure than those who followed a moderate cardiovascular exercise regimen. However, note that further research is needed to explore how boxing directly affects blood pressure. 

Boxing Can Give You a Mood Boost

Beating up a bag or the air can feel cathartic and empowering, Kendall says. “You're building your instincts,” she adds. “Boxing is a full body workout that empowers you and helps you learn how to fight.” 

Many of boxing’s lessons transcend beyond the actual workout, she adds. “Learning how to throw a punch and absorb a punch really acts as a metaphor for life,” she says. The resiliency, flexibility, and responsiveness you learn on the mat can be carried into your career, relationships, and more. 

That said, boxing won’t feel easy in the beginning. “It does take time to build up that confidence,” Kendall says. “At first, you feel like a baby giraffe just learning how to walk. Patience is key—but that's what makes boxing so transformative. Once you start to get comfortable, you can see the transformation pretty quickly.” 

How to Add Boxing to Your Fitness Regimen 

Kendall recommends starting with two to three sessions per week. However, these workouts don’t need to be an hour long. On the Peloton App, you’ll find plenty of shadowboxing sessions that you can queue up and pair with other types of classes. For example, you could jump on the Peloton Tread for a quick run before stepping off and throwing some punches. 

Workouts to Pair with Boxing 

To strengthen the muscles you use while boxing, Kendall recommends adding two to three strength training sessions into your weekly routine. Since boxing is primarily a push workout (you’re pushing the bag or the air away with your fist), try incorporating some pull-style movements on your days off. 

Rowing can also balance out the work you do in the ring. “In rowing, we're pulling instead of pushing, so you can open your chest and extend your back,” Kendall says. “Those areas often become constrained in boxing.” Yoga can also soothe the muscles that tend to get tight during boxing—your hips, shoulders, and upper back. “Take a hell of a lot of yoga classes, please,” she says. “Between cycling and boxing, let's just put it this way: My hips are quite sticky, so anything to open them up is great.” 

What to Keep In Mind

While boxing—and particularly shadowboxing—is safe for almost anyone, if you have a  preexisting condition or are pregnant, consult with your physician before adding this physical workout to your schedule. 


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