Guest Post by: Tom Demers
Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, has become a popular way to develop a variety of skills necessary to overcome an opponent. At the same time, MMA can be a good source of regular exercise that works the core muscle groups. Strength and agility are required to stay at the top of your game while practicing mixed martial arts moves. While some consider MMA a sport for the young, many older people are finding the moves to be a good way to stay in shape. Some older participants may reap additional rewards from practicing mixed martial arts exercises. Movements related to the sport may even combat some common symptoms of aging.
Understanding Mixed Martial Arts
Mixed martial arts is a full contact combat sport that focuses on grappling and striking techniques used against an opponent. Specific sports that make up MMA include wrestling, muay Thai, karate, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kickboxing and other similar contact combat sports. MMA is divided into three basic movements:
• Standard stand-up – This includes kickboxing, boxing, muay Thai and karate. These disciplines involve elbowing, footwork, kicking, punching and kneeing. All moves are performed while in a standing position.
• Clinch - This includes sambo, judo, Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling. An emphasis is planed on clinching, throws and takedowns. Muay Thai, in particular, focuses specifically on the striking aspect of the clinch.
• Ground – The focus here is on improving ground control while maintaining certain positions. This includes Brazilian jiu-jitsu, most forms of wrestling, judo and sambo. The emphasis is on submissions holds and how to defend yourself against them.
MMA and the Fight Against Aging
Many of the movements in mixed martial arts can help keep you flexible for many years, even combating some of the common issues associated with aging. MMA, in general, can be broken down into five basic areas of concentration, or domains. Coincidentally, these are the same areas that can help combat some of the effects of aging: balance, strength, posture, flexibility and endurance. All five of these ares change as we age. The changes are gradual and not very noticeable at first. As you continue to age, however, you start to feel older due to a lack of energy. This changes the way you move and the way you feel about yourself. Fortunately, fitness can help turn back your biological clock, especially MMA-related skills. This is because MMA just happens to focus on all five of these key domains.
As you age, muscles tighten and become weaker, resulting in a loss of balance due to reduced nerve activity and blood circulation. Balance relates to all basic human movements, from the way you walk and stand to how you sit down and stand up. Balance is considered one of the most important areas of fitness for people over the age of 40. Balance is a big part of all the mixed martial arts. Extended training of the basic muscle groups can loosen muscles and improve overall reflexes.
As we age, we lose about 30 percent of our overall physical strength. This can start as early as age 30 and continue into the 80s. This is because muscles lose their ability to contract the way they used to. This condition is called atrophy. This happens when muscle fibers shrink and muscle mass decreases. This means a reduced range of motion. Free weights and machines can help, but what really increases strength is moving your body with a focus on specific regions of the body. MMA involves movement of all core areas of the body. A recent study found that men and women over the age of 90 experienced a 200 percent increase in strength after just six weeks of regular exercise. The great thing about MMA movements is that they can be adapted for just about any age range or fitness level.
Posture starts early in life. Our parents tell us to “sit up straight” for a good reason. Posture declines with age, regardless of whether or not you listened to your parents. The disks on your back lose water content, becoming less spongy. Poor posture can compound these issues and result in a loss of bone structure in the back, known as osteoporosis. Fortunately, even poor posture can be reverse. Many of the exercises and movements associated with mixed martial arts require correct posture. In fact, many movements cannot be performed unless you are standing or sitting correctly.
Flexibility declines with age. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. A loss of flexibility becomes evident when you start to have difficulty getting up from a chair or walking up the stairs. A loss of flexibility as we age is due to a loss of a fibrous, connective tissue known as collagen. This involves everything from bones and tendons to muscle and ligaments. A loss of collagen makes your connective tissue less elastic as you age, resulting in stiff joints and muscles. This can result in pain while walking. MMA requires movements such as kicking and punching that help improve flexibility, meaning an increased elasticity of the tissues around your bones and joints.
Endurance refers to how long you are able to perform a certain function. Inactivity early in life can cause poor endurance levels. Reduced endurance makes it harder to walk, run or even stand for long periods of time. As you age, a reduction in endurance can mean a loss of elasticity in the lungs due to a slight stiffening of the air passages. Reduced oxygenation means a decrease in your maximum heart rate. MMA movements and exercises often require endurance, resulting in a boost in endurance in everyday activities.
Simply practicing any of the mixed martial arts won’t automatically improve everything, but any form of regular exercise has its benefits – especially as we age. Many of the principles and concepts involved with practicing MMA can help combat many of the common physical issues associated with aging. It’s not a cure-all, but regular fitness can keep you active and vital for many years.
Author Bio: Tom Demers writes for Assisted Living Today, a leading source of information on senior care, including information on assisted living in Seattle.
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