Boxing HIIT Training – burn twice as much fat as lower intensity exercise!
High intensity boxing training increases feelings of vitality by over 50%!
A recent study in Australia compared 12 weeks of Boxing HIIT (high intensity interval training) with regular walking MICT sessions (Moderate intensity continuous training), in a group of men and women with abdominal obesity. * The workouts were measured for intensity and each person trained 4 times a week. Heart rate measurements confirmed the boxing sessions were significantly harder than the walks.
Unsurprisingly, the boxing training group got the best results across the board with the results for the walkers being downright disappointing. This is especially worrying given that walking is often regarded as a health boosting activity. The boxing training group lost twice as much body fat, significantly reduced their blood pressure and increased their cardio fitness – VO2 Max by 16%! The boxers also reported an increased sense of vitality – a 54% increase on their pre-trial score. These results are indicative of just how beneficial boxing interval training can be.
It is worth noting that these subjects weren’t training to fight or compete, but were following a boxing training routine including heavy punch bag work, skipping and boxing footwork drills. Boxing is often considered a high risk activity and don’t get me wrong – fighting competitively is a serious sport, demanding ultimate respect. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. What if we could get the benefits of tough boxing training, without ever stepping in the ring? I have to admit – it seems unlikely that GPs will start recommending boxing to clinically obese patients, but perhaps it’s time for more of us appreciate the sport from a fitness perspective. With obesity rates rising worldwide, maybe we do need to look beyond the usual methods of exercise.
In this study the walkers did show a small reduction in body fat, but this was not statistically significant. Also disappointing was the lack of any other improvement for the walkers. The fact that they actually suffered a negative consequence is even more cause for alarm. According to the health questions answered, they suffered a 19% reduction in their feelings of vitality. This is extremely worrying and I have to consider how this happened. Could it be because the walkers weren’t supervised, and lacked instruction? Perhaps walking alone seems somewhat pointless, compared to following a structured boxing workout. The goal of the walkers was simply to keep walking until the time was up. If they did just this, without having an actual goal such as getting to a destination quicker, then maybe it did seem pointless. And maybe it was.
The boxing training group on the other hand were actively learning as they exercised. They experienced the thrill of the challenge, maybe struggling with the intensity at first and yet enjoying the satisfaction as they improved. There were many aspects to learn – coordination, footwork, punchbag combinations and timings, and each individual would have been acutely aware of their fitness levels increasing as they progressed through the weeks. Compare this to walking – where was the challenge, the learning, the thrill? What were they aiming for? What had they achieved? Had they experienced a mental and physical challenge, not really. In this respect it’s not hard to understand why the boxing training group got better results.
With regards to the feasibility of using boxing training as a health strategy the researchers in this case concluded that Boxing Training HIIT is a manageable activity for those with abdominal obesity. They also stated that boxing training (high intensity interval training) may provide better fitness and weight loss results than equal time spent doing MICT. I think this particular statement is very weak considering the clear results shown, but I do appreciate this was a small pilot study and that more research is required before any general health related guidelines could be amended to reflect these claims.
The Boxing Training Group
HIIT has received much publicity in recent years and boxing training is the original and ultimate form of this kind of training. There has been much discussion surrounding the comparison of HIIT and slower, more continuous exercise like walking, cycling and swimming. HIIT involves training at an intense level for 2-3 mins followed by a minute or so rest/lower intensity exercise. The boxing group in this study followed a standard HIIT format – warming up with 5 minutes of skipping, working hard for 2 mins, then resting for 1 min.
These included working on a heavy punch bag, using focus mitts, a circular body bag, boxing footwork drills and skipping. They were told to exercise at max intensity (over 75% max HR). Each session lasted 50 mins.
The Walking Group
This group also had 50 min sessions, beginning with a 5 min warm up, followed by walking as quickly as possible for the rest of the session.
Boxing HIIT Reduces Body Fat
The results were clearly in the favour of the boxing training group – they benefited from a 13.2% reduction in body fat, plus reduced waist measurements (5.3%), body mass (4.1%) and BMI (4%). Contrastingly the walkers lost much less fat – 5.4%. They lost no weight and did not reduce their BMI or waist measurements.
High Intensity Interval Boxing Training Reduces Blood Pressure & Increased Cardiovascular Health
The boxing workout group showed significant reductions in blood pressure and their absolute VO2 max increased by 10.2%. Their relative VO2max (in relation to their body weight) increased by 16.9%! None of these benefits were found in the walkers. According to the Australian researchers the reduction in both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements were due to pure intensity of the boxing exercises and the vascular stress caused as a result. What happened next was actually a reversal of the level of atherosclerosis present. This is great news for HIIT in general and the researchers did note that various studies have shown that the cardiovascular benefits (both central and peripheral) are better in response to HIIT compared to MICT. Another factor to consider here is the possibility that the HIIT training reduced feelings of stress, and this subsequently helped to reduce blood pressure. The intense nature of the HIIT training, in particular boxing training can really help reduce stress levels. This is especially evident when working on a heavy punchbag. In addition, all that concentration also helps to reduce stress by encouraging full focus on the task in hand, leaving all other worries aside.
High Intensity Interval Boxing Training Increases Happiness & Health
According to measurements of health related quality of life outcome, those in the boxing workout group experienced an amazing 54% increase in vitality and a 25% improvement in general health. Contrastingly the walking group showed reduced vitality (19% lower score than pre-trial levels) and a small reduction in general health (7% lower). This was the first time boxing training had been used as the mode of HIIT in a comparison study. It may seem obvious that high intensity boxing training would produce better results, but as with all things health related scientific research must be undertaken before any new recommendations can be made to the general public. Further research is needed as this was just a pilot study with a small group size. The results however were quite clear and the HIIT boxing training definitely came out on top.
On their website the World Health Organisation states that ‘Adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity activity.’ They included the following in their list of activities ‘walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming, transportation (e.g. walking or cycling), occupational (i.e. work), household chores, play, games, sports or planned exercise.’ In addition they state ‘In order to improve cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, reduce the risk of NCDs and depression: Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration. For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.’*
Current guidelines fall short of actually recommending HIIT as the best route to fitness, but I’m not getting into the politics of all that! At the very least we should all be mixing up the intensities of our workouts and generally being more active. Boxing training sessions are a great way to inject a bit of high intensity training into your life, so the next time you find yourself looking for inspiration why not have a go? All our boxing workouts can be enjoyed in the privacy of your own home and will get you fitter, leaner and healthier – inside and out.
BELIEVE. TRAIN. BOX.
‘The feasibility and effectiveness of high-intensity boxing training versus moderate-intensity brisk walking in adults with abdominal obesity: a pilot study. Birinder S Cheema, Timothy B Davies, Matthew Stewart, Shona Papalia and Evan Atlantis BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation 2015, 7:3 doi:10.1186/2052-1847-7-3. Published: 16 January 2015 *http://www.biomedcentral.com/2052-1847/7/3/abstract WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION WEBSITE – *http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_adults/en/
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