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Kicking A Sedentary Lifestyle With Martial Arts

By Katrina Sholeen, PT, DPT

Starting a new fitness routine can be challenging for many people. Time and money both certainly factor into this equation, but finding activities you enjoy is equally important when it comes to making exercise part of your life. Quite simply, it will be much harder to add something to your busy schedule if it is not fun or meaningful to you! While signing up for a gym membership or starting a Couch to 5k program works wonders for some people, initiating a practice like martial arts, yoga or dancing can be another fun way to learn a new skill and continuously set and reach goals for yourself — all while you get your body moving!

While different styles of martial arts have different areas of emphasis, most offer a wide array of physical benefits by working on endurance, strength, speed, coordination, flexibility and balance. Additionally, martial arts also offer the perk of being a full body activity — meaning you’ll never have to worry about skipping “leg day”! Currently, adults are recommended to participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week. Strengthening should also be part of the routine at least twice per week to keep your muscles and bones in their best condition. Many of these fitness goals can be met through participation in a striking-based martial art, such as karate or tae kwon do or grappling-based arts like judo or jiu jitsu.

However, other varieties of martial arts provide the benefits of dynamic exercise without physical contact.  The health benefits of Tai Chi, in particular, has been extensively studied. Research has shown that it is an effective method for preventing falls in older adults, and there have even been studies demonstrating the benefits of Tai Chi in more specific health demographics, such as individuals with chronic pain, Multiple Sclerosis, or Parkinson’s Disease. Non-contact boxing has also been studied as a method for promoting improved physical function in individuals with Parkinson’s.

As spring enters full swing, finding a fun and meaningful new activity might just be what you need to start working towards your health and fitness goals. Whether you are energized by kicking, dancing, running, lifting or any other way you can think of to be active, remember to check in with your health care provider before starting a new exercise program to make sure it is right for you!

If you have questions about your physical fitness or how to start exercising safely, call PhysioPartners to schedule an Annual PT Exam or consider the benefits of starting under the supervision of a personal trainer in a private or small group session.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018.

Huang Z, Feng Y, Li Y, et al. Systematic review and meta-analysis: Tai Chi for preventing falls in older adults. BMJ Open 2017;7:e013661. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013661

Li F, Harmer P, Fitzgerald K, Eckstrom E, Stock R, Galver J, et al. Tai chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinson’s disease. N Engl J Med. (2012) 366:511–9. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1107911

Combs-Miller S, Dyer Diehl M, et al. Boxing Training for Patients With Parkinson Disease: A Case Series. Phys Ther. 2010. 91. 132-42. 10.2522/ptj.20100142.