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Boxing and Kickboxing: Two Effective Stress Relief Outlets

Date: 6/30/10

SILVER SPRING, MD – June 30, 2010 -- Over time, the sports and recreation habits of Americans have changed as often as fashion trends.  During the early part of this decade, team sports were the benefactor of three years of steady growth in participation, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.  More recently, the fitness industry has experienced a significant increase in activity as more Americans strive toward healthier lifestyles.  With current economic, political and family situations constantly in flux, participation in sports like boxing and kickboxing have increased in regards to participation levels.  Boxing and kickboxing fall under the category of ‘Combative Sports,’ as they are activities in which participants vigorously strike objects with a part of their bodies. Mixed martial arts (MMA) has also skyrocketed in popularity, since it encompasses every element of hand-to-hand combat.  On a macro level, figures from SGMA Research indicate the participation rates of boxing and kickboxing have increased 6.4% and 20.1%, respectively, between 2008 and 2009.

Popularity for both sports is at an all-time high for many reasons. According to industry experts, boxing and kickboxing have become the preferred methods to release frustrations and alleviate anger among exercise participants. Controlled punching and kicking against something (often pads) allows one to vent feelings of disappointment and distress in a safe and productive manner. In fact, actively hitting an object or another person in a controlled situation is particularly effective at releasing frustrations. Active visualization greatly contributes to the enjoyment, for participants often imagine the pads as someone, such as a boss, an in-law, or an ex-partner, who they are frustrated with or for whom they do not care. Hence, after giving meaning to the object they are striking, participants commonly experience a unique satisfaction when delivering the blows. 

Even during a time when sporting good manufactures and fitness providers are negatively affected by the down economy, both the physical and mental rewards of boxing have attracted new participants to the sport.  Kickboxing fans say the sport helps them feel more empowered and confident.  Sessions give kick boxers a growing feeling of power and control that is absent in their lives outside the gym. Even if they are losing control of other aspects of their lives, boxing allows participants personal autonomy and command over their own success. While the recession causes uncertainty throughout society, personal fitness activities remain a constant. According to Tom Cove, president/CEO of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), “The country is stressed like never before and people need to escape some of the harsh realities they are faced with on a daily basis. Throwing on a pair of shorts and banging on a bag or kicking pads for an hour is a great way to eliminate that stress.”

Combative sport equipment manufacturers are pleased to see customers in the field and working professionals during lunch breaks working out together, holding Thai pads or kicking heavy bags to the beat of music. “It is satisfying to see people waiting in line to get to a bag along with business guys grappling and women doing knee strikes into a heavy bag. It’s very rewarding to watch when they are all huffing and puffing after pushing themselves to the limit,” says Dan Bower, president of Century Martial Arts (Midwest City, OK).

In addition to increased self-esteem, health, and self-reliance, boxers also become confident in their ability to defend themselves. In boxing and kick boxing, the individual is almost solely credited with shaping his or her own success and receives individual praise and accolades for achievements, whereas, in team sports, the merit hinges on teammates working together toward a common goal.

“Mixed martial arts is the brainchild of Dana White, who has almost single handedly created a ‘firestorm’ through his incredibly successful UFC events. As the official licensee for both UFC and TAPOUT equipment, Century has been the beneficiary of this phenomenal trend in combative sports,” explained Bower.  “The numbers are staggering and facilities find themselves adding capacity daily.  The fighters are in phenomenal condition and people want to know how they can get in that kind of shape. Gyms are full of people right now signing up for MMA classes. Several new gyms have emerged such as UFC Gyms, Tapout Gyms, and Title Boxing Gyms.  Many more are opening daily.”

The SGMA’s Sports & Fitness Participation Topline Report (2010 edition), conducted in the midst of the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression, has produced data that showed the highest percentage of those who participate in boxing regularly is the 18-24 age demographic – as 36% of regular boxers are in that age group. Because this age group is likely comprised of disillusioned recent graduates hoping to become working professionals, they are the individuals who have been hit the hardest by the recession, and, therefore, are having the toughest time finding work. The next highest percentage (30%), which features 25-34 year-olds, is likely facing a tough job market as well. Moreover, from 2006-2009, boxing saw a 6% increase in first-time participation. Additionally, because of its many benefits and great appeal, the sale of boxing equipment totaled $108 million in 2009, based on SGMA’s Manufacturers Sales by Category Report.  That figure is expected to reach $112 million in 2010.


“The sport is seeing large growth in participation numbers among women as well,” commented Bower.  “In particular ‘cage fitness’ is the hot, new exercise attracting women.  Women who want to hit things and get an incredible cardio workout often participate in ‘cage fitness.’  In fact, as many as 20,000 martial arts studios now offer some form of MMA.”


Harmful stress primarily comes from situations causing the body to produce adrenaline in environments where the body is unable to work off that adrenaline.  Venting, namely exercise involving physical aggression, is one of the most effective ways of relieving stress. The website http://www.stress-relief-exercises.com/ explains, “When we physically exert ourselves, the body releases chemical substances (endorphins) that are similar to opiates found in nature. These natural substances produced by our own bodies have no side effects other than making us feel good.” It is reiterated that exercising the body regularly has proven to effectively manage stress, especially when coupled with a larger stress-management program.

Trends in sports participation simultaneously evolve from the situations around us. Currently, stress levels are high, time pressures are mounting, and the feeling of being overwhelmed is widespread.  Sports like boxing and kick boxing, as well as those companies manufacturing and selling martial arts products, are reaping the benefits of what’s happening in society.

Bower, a third-degree black belt, has no issues with people making a choice in how they approach combative sports. He is confident that new participants will fall in love with the rewards they see and will end up pursuing a more traditional regiment with a martial arts studio for formal training. His philosophy is “come one come all,” as he knows that hitting something as hard as you can just feels good.

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