On the surface, boxing might not seem like the most obvious sport to help promote good mental health. After all, boxers get in a ring and pummel each other, right? But Peloton instructors Becs Gentry and Kendall Toole want you to know that boxing can actually help a lot with your mental health. How’s that? Let’s find out.
On the most basic level, boxing is great exercise, which is well known to help with depression and other mental health issues. “I think any and all exercise is fabulous for mental health,” Becs says. Plus there’s the escape factor: As with any movement, it allows you the time to yourself to focus on yourself for a moment or 20! I also believe that setting yourself a challenge—such as improving your boxing—is such a fun way of dedicating time to yourself on a regular basis, something I personally ensure I do for my mental health.”
For Kendall, whose mental health awareness rides are beloved among fans, boxing provides a way to process difficult feelings. “Being able to physically express any tumultuous emotion as well as moving through it and creating endorphins in the process is deeply healing,” she says. “Meeting the struggle where you’re at and finding a way to experience the sensation in a positive way—through boxing, where you’re learning new movements—was incredibly helpful for me.” In addition, it allows you to forget about your problems for a little while: “Because you are so physically present, for me it allows my mind to take a back seat for a little bit, which always provides me with so much relief.”
So how is that different from, say, getting on the Peloton Bike and riding, or engaging in any other exercise modality? “So much of what makes boxing special is the learning of a new skill and the repetition and commitment it takes,” Kendall explains. “There is a great deal of ‘mental’ in boxing as it becomes more about quieting the negative and judgmental voice in your head to stay present and focused—especially when there is another opponent in the ring. The sport demands complete presence, which in turn helps build your ability to handle high stress or anxiety-laden situations with a kind of power and presence.”
Somewhat counterintuitively for those who have yet to jump into a boxing class, Kendall continues that boxing doesn’t have to be violent and actually has certain mental benefits that may be surprising: “The physical benefits are clear as it is such a challenging and rewarding way to increase cardio and build muscle, thanks to the fast-twitch fibers that are needed. But it also has become a peaceful practice for me. Boxing is not about aggression but about strategic power. In practicing the sport, I find I become more clear in my intentions, more tolerable and aware of what might trigger me, and more adept at responding to stress.”
So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated or just need to get out of your head for a while, queue up a Peloton boxing class, get your hands up, and as Kendall is fond of reminding us, “Stay in the fight!”