There’s a reason why boxing is the workout of choice for so many celebs and models. Not only is fighting a strength and cardio workout in one, it’s the best way to get in tune with your inner badass. If that’s not enough to convince you to add boxing to your regimen, these five punching perks will have you itching to put on a pair of gloves. (Read: 6 cardio exercises to get your heart pumping).
1. You’ll sculpt every muscle
A two-for-one cardio and strength workout, boxing improves overall fitness, says Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. “In addition to boosting your strength and cardio, boxing improves a number of skill-related parameters of fitness, including balance, coordination, reactivity, and agility,” she says. How else do you think you’re going to dodge and counter punches at lightning speed?
And if anyone tells you that boxing is predominantly an upper-body workout, they’re doing it wrong. “If you do it right—once you’ve learned how to fire everything with proper form—you’re getting a full-body workout,” says Hernan Santa Jr., head of the sparring program at EverybodyFights in New York. While, yes, your arms extend for each punch, you’re actually driving power from your hips and legs. “You’ll also work your back, shoulders, and core,” says Santa. (Read: Kangoo Rebound workout?)
2. You’ll burn major calories— fast
The main physical benefit beginner boxers will see is cardiovascular, says Santa. “Boxing improves your resting heart rate and muscular endurance,” he says. That lowered resting heart rate and increased stamina can give you in edge in your other workouts. (Related: Burn major calories in just 30 minutes with these moves).
With a potential burn rate of 13 calories a minute, boxing goes head-to-head with other types of cardio like running and cycling. Plan to punch away anywhere from 200 to 400 calories (for a 140-pound individual) per half hour. Thirty minutes of boxing in a ring torches 400 calories; 30 minutes of punching a bag burns 200 calories; and 30 minutes sparring with a partner blasts 300 calories, Matthews says.
3. You’ll relieve stress like never before
Whatever’s got you ready to snap, boxing will help you calm down. “I’d say the number-one thing that sets boxing apart from other workouts is the degree of stress relief,” says Arnold Gonzalez, USA Boxer. “It’s unlike any other workout.”
Not only is hitting something a healthy and productive way to help you let go of tension, the rush of endorphins may make you happier too. A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology found that people who engaged in high-intensity workouts for an hour released significantly more endorphins than those who spent an hour on moderate exercise. (ICYDK, boxing definitely falls into the high-intensity category.)
The mental perks of boxing don’t stop there: “Boxing builds confidence and discipline at another level,” Gonzalez says.
4. You’ll improve your coordination
Hand-eye coordination is key for boxing. Punching a bag or sparring requires focused movements and amazing recall, challenging your muscles and your mind, says former championship boxer Michael Olajide Jr., cofounder of Aerospace in New York. Muhammad Ali didn’t “float like a butterfly” for nothing.
5. You’ll never stop learning
It’s easy for your fitness routine to become, well, routine, but boxing will keep you on your toes. “Boxing requires complete focus, which makes the time fly by,” says Santa. And unlike running on the treadmill, there’s always something new to learn (or someone new to spar!), so you have serious incentive to keep training.