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Lillian Wilson

Five Cardiovascular Benefits of Muay Thai

How Muay Thai can keep your heart pumping: exploring the cardiovascular benefits of this martial art.

muay thai benefits for health

Globally cardiovascular diseases are the top leading cause of death, claiming up to 17.9 million lives annually.

The risk factors of these illnesses may be caused by various risk factors that go from genetic predisposition to habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake, poor diet, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.

To protect our hearts it is vital to address the risk factors and being active and keeping moving is one way to do so. And luckily, Muay Thai is one of the best ways to improve your whole body physique, train it aerobically and anaerobically and even ease stress which serves as one of the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Let’s see how Muay Thai strengthens and protects your heart.

Five cardiovascular benefits of Muay Thai

1Strengthens your heart

Regular exercise is crucial for maintaining a healthy heart, just like any other muscle in your body. When you don’t exercise your heart, weakens and has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body. This can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other heart-related issues. That’s why cardiovascular workouts like Muay Thai are essential for keeping your heart in optimal condition. With every hour spent in a Muay Thai class, you’ll burn close to 1000 calories and get an intense mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercises that work every muscle in your body.

By regularly exercising your heart with Muay Thai, you’ll increase your cardiovascular endurance (indicated by VO₂ Max) and lower your resting heart rate, making it easier for your heart to pump blood all over your body.

The factors mentioned above such as high VO₂ Max, healthy resting heart rate and blood circulation all make you less likely to develop heart conditions. Thus, scientists have proven that people with low levels of cardiovascular fitness had a 220% relative risk of stroke and a 250% risk of ischemic stroke if compared to people with higher VO₂ Max levels.

When it comes to resting heart rate, every 10 beats/min increase in this indicator was linked to an 18% increased prevalence of stroke.

Thus, as Muay Thai can really dress these risk factors and improve them, it will serve as excellent heart-strengthening training.

2Lowers blood pressure

Hypertension is an enormous and, sadly, common health issue in modern society. Around 1.28 billion adults suffer from high blood pressure globally.

Arteries can be negatively impacted by high blood pressure as it reduces their elasticity, thereby reducing the flow of oxygen and blood to the heart which ultimately leads to heart disease.

Elevated blood pressure raises the likelihood of developing several cardiovascular ailments, such as heart failure, stroke, coronary artery disease, and atrial fibrillation.

An active lifestyle is said to decrease high blood pressure and Muay Thai is a great way to do so too.

This study found that 16 weeks of Martial Arts training, performed twice a week, led to a decrease in systolic BP in adolescents. The results suggest that Muay Thai can be used to lower BP in young people, with a net effect of 3.4 mmHg.

2 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure can reduce stroke risk by -6% Source: JAMA

Additionally, it is known that a 2 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure can reduce stroke risk by 6% and heart disease risk by 4%. This proves Muay Thai to be an effective way of combating heart issues.

3Lowers stress levels

Close,Up,View,Of,Smiling,Boxer,Doing,Exercise,In,Gym

Chronic stress, whether experienced in early life or adulthood, is associated with a 40-60% risk of congenital heart defects. Prolonged distress can lead to psychological trauma, which can cause adverse cardiovascular effects, making it equivalent to primary risk factors of cardiovascular disease. Socially apathetic populations have a 50% prevalence of CVD, while 40% of people in high-pressure work environments are likely to develop CVD.

Multiple studies have investigated the effect of martial arts on people’s mental health. In ‘The quest for excitement in professional female Muay Thai boxing,’ study practitioners reported positive emotions they receive from Muay Thai. One of the Muay Thai practitioners, in the study named Holly, explained that:

It [Muay Thai] really does help and recently I split up with my boyfriend, and everyone was just like go out and drink and party but I don’t think that helps, all I want to do is go to the gym and hit things […] I feel better after leaving and it’s different ‘cause it’s contact, like kicking things, and it’s just like everyone thinks automatically that Thai boxing is going to be violent, it’s not always, like obviously the fights are but training is just like a really good vent and I think that’s why people get hooked to it.
Holly
Professional female Muay Thai practitioner

4Promotes fat loss

Excess fat in the body vastly contributes to cardiovascular disease development. For instance, more than 80% of coronary artery disease sufferers are overweight or obese.

80% of coronary artery disease sufferers are overweight or obese Source: PubMed

Excess weight leads to inflammation, poor blood flow and fatty material buildup in blood vessels. Damaged and blocked arteries can lead to a heart attack if they carry blood to the heart.

Those who have been practising Muay Thai for a considerable amount of time, whether professionals or fitness enthusiasts, often exhibit a lean physique with well-defined abdominal muscles and a low body fat percentage.

This study aimed to analyze the effects of 16 weeks of Muay Thai training on the body composition of overweight/obese adolescents. 33 participants were allocated to the training and control groups, and body composition was measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. After 16 weeks, the Muay Thai group showed a significant decrease in body fat percentage, total fat mass, and fat mass in the arms, trunk, and android region compared to the control group. Additionally, the Muay Thai group had significant increases in total lean mass and lean mass in the legs.

5Engages you in more physical activity

Maintaining an active lifestyle is crucial for preventing heart disease, as inactivity is a common cause of premature death and a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Incorporating Muay Thai into your fitness routine can help combat the risk factors by providing regular exercise. Muay Thai is not only an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise, but it is also a highly motivating activity that can boost your confidence and willingness to try other sports and physical activities.

Studies have shown that people who lead sedentary lifestyles are more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure.

The study of almost 8000 men initially free of cardiovascular disease, found a positive association between sedentary behaviours and cardiovascular disease mortality rates. Men who reported more than 10 hours per week riding in a car or more than 23 hours per week of combined sedentary behaviour had an 82% and 64% risk of dying from CVD compared to those who reported less than 4 hours per week or 11 hours per week, respectively.

Thus, engaging in regular physical activity, such as Muay Thai, can help reduce the risk of developing these risk factors and improve overall cardiovascular health. What is even better about Muay Thai is its intensity. The training sessions are activity-packed which will help you to make up for all the sitting hours.

Sum it up

It is important to take proactive measures to protect our hearts. Muay Thai offers a great solution to address the risk factors associated with these illnesses. By engaging in this intense and exciting martial art, you can strengthen your heart, lower your blood pressure, promote fat loss, lower stress levels, and engage in more physical activity. These five benefits of Muay Thai offer a compelling reason to give this martial art a try, and in doing so, take a step towards protecting your heart and improving your overall health.

Not enough? Here are some more from our colleagues

The Boxer’s Soliloquy by Matt Lucas is an authentic and emotional journey of a young American fighter in his pursuit of Muay Thai from the middle of his career to its end, offering a glimpse into the life of a Muay Thai fighter in the United States and Thailand in a short two-hour read.

The Boxer's Soliloquy Book Cover Matt Lucas

Healthypedia FAQ

Yes, studies have shown that regular Muay Thai training can lead to a decrease in systolic blood pressure in adolescents. Additionally, a reduction of 2 mmHg in systolic blood pressure can reduce the risk of stroke by 6% and heart disease risk by 4%.

Yes, Muay Thai training can promote fat loss. In a study conducted on overweight/obese adolescents, 16 weeks of Muay Thai training led to a significant decrease in body fat percentage, total fat mass, and fat mass in the arms, trunk, and android region compared to the control group. The Muay Thai group also had significant increases in total lean mass and lean mass in the legs.

It depends on the individual's medical condition and fitness level. Before starting any new exercise program, it's important to consult a doctor, especially if you have a history of cardiovascular disease. However, for healthy individuals, Muay Thai can be a safe and effective way to improve cardiovascular health.

Yes, multiple studies have investigated the effect of martial arts, including Muay Thai, on people's mental health. Chronic stress is associated with a high risk of congenital heart defects, and Muay Thai training can help combat this risk factor by providing a physical outlet for stress relief. Many practitioners report positive emotions they receive from Muay Thai, and it can boost confidence and motivation to try other physical activities.

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