According to the Singapore Heart Foundation, cardiovascular diseases were responsible for over 31% of deaths in Singapore in 2020. It’s a problem that is most likely to affect men, and it can manifest in a variety of ways, including:
Heart rhythm problems
Blood vessel disease
Heart valve disease
Heart muscle disease
Fortunately, learning martial arts like Muay Thai can help to treat and prevent various cardiovascular issues.
Heart disease can develop due to many things, including the build-up of plaque in your arteries. This restricts the flow of blood, and it can cause damage to the heart and the blood vessels connected to it. Plaque build can also block blood flow to these vessels, leading to events like stroke, chest pain, or a heart attack.
People with cardiovascular disease often experience symptoms like fatigue, nausea, chest discomfort, and shortness of breath. Such symptoms often restrict the person from being able to live a full life.
How Muay Thai helps to prevent and treat cardiovascular issues
Let us take a look at how training Muay Thai helps to strengthen and protect your cardiovascular system:
1) It works out your heart
Muay Thai classes give you an intense mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercises that work every muscle in your body. Your body burns close to 1000 calories for every hour spent in the gym.
Just as is the case with every muscle in your body, your heart also needs exercises to stay in optimal condition. It weakens when not exercised often. A regularly exercised heart pumps more blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen and other essential nutrients.
A heart that isn’t regularly exercised might have to strain itself just to do its job. This increases your risk of suffering a major cardiac event like a heart attack. Simply put, the more often you exercise your heart with cardiovascular workouts, the less work it has to do to pump blood all over your body. That’s why athletes and people who are in great shape tend to have low resting heart rates. Their hearts are in such good shape; they sometimes use about half the beats a regular heart needs per minute to maintain blood circulation.
Muay Thai gives you a fantastic cardio workout that gets your heart pumping, increasing your cardiovascular endurance. Your resting heart rate will go down the more you train as your heart finds it easier to do its job.
2) It burns fat
Many people report becoming more ripped after starting Muay Thai. Some of them didn’t even modify their diets in any way. Training and eating as they’ve always done were often enough to get rid of excess fat.
Muay Thai training combined with a low-carb diet leads to significant fat loss. Arterial plaque is made up of fatty deposits in your blood, so burning excess fat helps free up your arteries. This makes your heart’s job a lot easier, preventing cardiac events like strokes and heart attacks.
3) It makes you more active
Inactivity is another common cause of premature death, and it’s one of the top risk factors for heart disease. Some other factors known to contribute to heart disease include obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. The exercise you get from training Muay Thai regularly helps you to combat all these things.
Research shows that men who spend more than 23 hours per week engaged in sedentary activities are up to 64% more likely to die from heart disease than those who spend less than 11 hours per week being sedentary (not counting the time spent sleeping). People who leave sedentary lifestyles are also more likely to develop risk factors for cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure than those who have active lifestyles.
4) Lowers stress
Stress is another common risk factor of cardiovascular problems and exercising regularly helps to lower it. Martial arts like Muay Thai also provide destructive therapy since you get to punch and kick things at the gym. You get to unleash all of your pent-up anger and frustration in a controlled and safe way instead of bottling it up until it explodes in a harmful way.
The intense workout you get from training Muay Thai leads to the release of feel-good hormones in your brain, elevating your mood and making you feel relaxed.
The training also gets your body tired, so you sleep well at night. Getting adequate rest every night helps to combat stress and promotes well-being.
5) It shows you a healthier approach to life
Learning Muay Thai is a lot more than working out. The art of eight limbs makes it significantly easier to make fitness an integral part of your life. Many people can sum up the motivation to start a workout program but most quickly get bored with performing the same exercises repeatedly.
Things are different with Muay Thai. You get an incredible full-body workout without realising how hard you’re working. The fun and enjoyment you get from each class will be the main things you remember after each lesson. You won’t get bored with your training since you’re always looking forward to learning new things.
Over time, your arsenal of techniques grows, and you realize you now know how to defend yourself if you ever have to. You also noticed your body has changed significantly since you started training. That six-pack you haven’t seen in decades might now be visible, and that wasn’t even one of your fitness goals.
Learning Muay Thai makes you enjoy living an active lifestyle, making you more likely to stick with it. As a result, you get to enjoy improved cardiovascular, mental, and physical health.
This article, "Here’s Why Muay Thai Can Improve Your Cardiovascular Health", originally appeared on Evolve MMA, Asia’s No. 1 martial arts organisation.