Martial Arts and Health

Whether it’s the big UFC match on TV, the Karate Kid or Tai-Chi classes at your local YMCA, you have probably heard about martial arts from someone. You may have asked yourself what’s all the commotion about. What’s the deal with martial arts?

Martial Arts are a relatively broad term referring to many combat and self-defense disciplines. These originate from nations all around the world including Japan, China, Korea, Brazil, and many more. Although many of these styles were originally intended for combat purposes, nowadays we see them practiced for sport and the sake of physical fitness.

Studies have shown that various martial arts yield health benefits both physical and mental. The most straightforward point we see is that many sparring based styles such as Taekwondo, Boxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, have effects on an individual similar to high-intensity cardio exercises. Less combative arts such as Tai-Chi have been known to improve mobility and posture in older adults. Martial arts training has been seen to reduce symptoms often associated with anxiety and depression. Studies have also shown that martial arts practice can also increase oxytocin levels in individuals in a similar way as aerobic exercises do. Oxytocin is known to induce feelings of well-being as well as reduce anxiety.

Martial arts training like any other high intensity activity are not without risks. Practitioners, especially new ones are often not adjusted to the new strain that training may have on their body. This can lead to strains, soreness and compensation patterns. This is where physical therapy can help. A physical therapist can help a new martial artist better adjust to the new strain of training by assessing any bad exercise habits, treat muscle and tissue soreness and recommend additional interventions like manual therapy, taping, or acupuncture. With the help of a devoted physical therapist, the stress of a new training regimen can be made that much of a smoother transition.

Different martial arts disciplines yield different health benefits much like how different exercises train varying parts of the body. If you think that training can benefit you, see which style suits your lifestyle. If you’ve started training and need help adjusting, talk to a physical therapist and see how they can help you on your wellness journey.




Bin B, et al. (November 2010). Effects of martial arts on health status: A systematic review. Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine. Volume 3 Issue 4. Retrieved from


Moore B, et al. (September 2019). The effects of martial arts participation on mental and psychosocial health outcomes: a randomized controlled trial of a secondary school-based mental health promotion program. BMC Psychology.  Retrieved from


Rassovesky Y, et al (September 2019). Martial arts increase oxytocin production. Scientific Reports. Retrieved from

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