Picture yourself on a five-mile run. How do you feel? Tired, out of breath, and sweaty are all images that probably come to mind. When we run, we increase the energetic demands of our muscles. Our muscles need more oxygen and sugar to make more energy. So, we breathe deeper, and our hearts beat faster to circulate that oxygen to the rest of the body.
This type of exercise is called cardiovascular because it puts demands on the heart and lungs. Although it might feel bad in the moment, cardiovascular exercise is actually very important for keeping the heart healthy.
Luckily for us, running isn't the only way to get your heart rate up. Kickboxing involves lots of rapid movement and can easily increase your heart rate to a similar pace as running. Kickboxing often uses interval training, where participants exercise at peak output for 30 seconds to a couple of minutes and then rest. This type of training is called high-intensity interval training and has been shown to be especially good for burning calories and increasing cardiovascular fitness.
Kickboxing improves cardiovascular health
Studies have shown that after only five weeks of kickboxing cardiovascular health can be greatly improved. Participants increased their VO2 max, a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during physical activity. A greater VO2 max means your body is more efficient at getting oxygen and using it, so you can generate more energy and thus more movement. Some of the most elite aerobic athletes, like cyclists and runners, have extremely high VO2 max levels.
Another study done in China demonstrated that not only can a consistent kickboxing routine improve VO2 max, but it can also improve the strength of your heart. After one year of regular kickboxing training participants' VO2 max was higher and their resting heart rate lower than their peers. Now, a lower heart rate might seem counterproductive, but it's actually a sign that your heart is getting stronger. A stronger heart needs to beat less to carry out the same amount of work, so athletes with stronger hearts actually have lower resting heart rates.