Training at your local Martial Arts facility provides a remarkable series of experiences that are anything but boring, same-old same-old routines! Training gradually improves your abilities, incrementally reaching personal goals in a safe and fun environment. Martial Arts are well known for their ability to develop impressive combat skills and self-confidence. They enhance strength, stamina, focus, reflexes, and more. And it’s more fun, more motivating to sweat and train with classmates who share your interests and support your goals!But a quality program will provide much more than mere yelling, jumping, kicking, and punching. Whether confidence, discipline, fitness, or self-defense is one’s motivation for training, the central aim of every Martial Arts student is to improve. To get tougher; to be more adept and effective. We train to conquer obstacles and fears, to broaden our capacities, to learn and earn respect in all areas of life. It shows in our Black Belt attitudes – and in our physical fitness!If your exercise routine is no longer motivating, or seems to be producing less and less of the toning and conditioning results you want, you just have to try Martial Arts! Consider: you’ve tightened your abs, stretched your hamstrings, and built your biceps, but have you done any work to stretch and build your mental stamina? Exercise helps your body’s systems resist stress- related disorders and dysfunctions. Martial Arts training for many is intense, relaxing, and ultimately satisfying all at once. In large part we must thank our incredible brain chemistry for the relief and improvements we receive.Martial Arts training help practitioners “keep our cool” – stay calm and not panic or overreact – in stressful situations. Simply put, through our practice, we learn to control our minds and bodies so that less adrenaline is released whenever we experience stress.Here’s how it works: The brain neurologically signals the body to produce adrenaline during stressful situations, but the surge is beneficial only for short periods of time, not long-term. Long-term exposure to adrenaline is now known to cause many physical problems. It can contribute to headaches, digestive problems, colds, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even stomach fat! According to Barbara Brehm-Curtis, Ed. D., professor of exercise and sport studies at Smith College in Northampton, MA, “If done consistently, physical activity actually reduces your stress reactivity. That means less adrenaline gets released and you don’t get as stressed out by things that used to upset you.”Choose physical activities like Martial Arts that allow you to have fun, make friends, and push your own boundaries in a safe place. Actually enjoying the exercise alters our brain chemistry to reduce and resist stress, ultimately leading to mental clarity and better performance at all levels. Playing vigorously has the added benefit of ridding your body of stress-causing hormones such as adrenaline. Activities like the Martial Arts are shown to significantly bolster the brain’s and body’s stress resistance functions.Strength training, yoga, or any exercise that involves tensing then releasing muscles can act as progressive relaxation. As Dr. Brehm-Curtis explains it, “When you measure muscle electrical activity after weight training, there’s less electrical activity, indicating that the muscles are more relaxed.”If you are not the type to meditate, try rhythmic, repetitive activities such as certain Martial Arts styles, swimming, rowing, or running, all of which increase alpha brain waves. These are the same waves that produce a meditative calm.How many of us have said we can’t find time for one 30 or 40 minute exercise session? The American Council on Exercise suggests taking a 10-minute break every 90 minutes to climb stairs or walk around the building. You’ll accumulate 50 minutes of exercise in an eight-hour day and be more productive, because you’re reducing stress and physically moving.For stress-relieving benefits, try exercising at least 30 minutes most days of the week. If you are new to exercise, begin with just two or three days, then work up to five or more days. If you need help or have questions, ask your Martial Arts instructor. Remember, exercise doesn’t just affect your physical appearance but your mental health too!Common to most popular Martial Arts styles practiced in the U.S. today are the terrific mental and physical benefits derived from the total body workouts, especially in supportive classes where partner stretches, exercises, drills, and free sparring intensify the experience! Long-lasting fitness doesn’t have to be boring! Martial Arts are anything but routine, and the amazing benefits are available to anyone – at any starting fitness level or age – who is willing first to try then to persevere. Perhaps the secret to the longevity of traditional Martial Arts could be how personally and collectively enjoyable the practice, and how varied and advantageous the rewards. Fitness is not a chore when it’s fun!