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The #1 Best Exercise for Fighting Stress, Says Science

Try this full-body workout to improve both your physical and mental health.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

Exercising is one of the best ways to improve your physical well-being as well as your mental health. And, it's well-known that working out can be an awesome form of stress relief, too. But what's the top workout when it comes to beating your work or life woes? Science suggests it may be boxing.

The sport's high-intensity interval training (HIIT) nature and numerous variations in each session mean you're using so many different muscles and a lot of concentration. This keeps every workout new and interesting, and it's a great way to take your mind off of anything that may be giving you anxiety.

What's more, science shows that boxing can improve your heart health, weight loss, sleep habits, and more—all of which come together to fight whatever's bugging you. So pick up your boxing gloves and let's take a look at how this exercise, in particular, combats stress. And for more, check out One Major Effect Exercise Has on Your Happiness.

1

Boxing Can Lower Blood Pressure

man boxing throwing a punch
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A 2015 study on overweight men and women found that those who went through a 12-week HIIT workout via boxing experienced a decrease in their overall blood pressure. This group was compared to another group that went through 12 weeks of walking instead.

What this means is that a regular boxing routine can help keep your blood pressure consistently at a more healthy level than some lower-intensity workouts (or no workouts at all). When you're stressed out, your blood pressure naturally goes up, but if you've gotten your body into a more stable level to begin with, it can help manage that inevitable spike that comes from stress.

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2

Boxing Can Release Endorphins

woman man boxing workout
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There's a reason you feel great when you start smacking the punching bag. This action can release a wave of endorphins, which contribute to a decrease in stress, research shows. How? When endorphins are released, it increases your dopamine production, which essentially boosts your happiness, combatting any stress or anxiety you may be feeling.

Related: This "Game of Thrones" Star Reveals How He Lost 120 Pounds

3

Boxing Can Help You Sleep Better

boxing gloves red on floor
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When boxing releases endorphins that boost dopamine, it also results in more sound sleep. The endorphins, again, trigger more dopamine production, which can relieve the stress you're feeling, helping you sleep better at night. When you have good sleep hygiene and get enough hours each night, you're more likely to wake up feeling restful and continue that feeling throughout the day.

Related: Sleeping This Way Can Lead to Depression, Study Says

4

Boxing Builds Strength

woman boxing in a gym
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When you put your time and energy into boxing, there's a good chance you'll increase your muscle strength. Not only does this workout benefit your arm muscles from all of the punching, but your legs are actually getting a great workout too. You're constantly moving around quickly, which keeps your leg muscles engaged throughout the workout.

By taking care of your muscles, you're helping yourself in a number of ways: You're building your physical strength, confidence, and abilities. And because physical and mental health go hand-in-hand, when one improves, oftentimes, so does the other. By taking care of your body with this all-around workout, your mental health should see a boost as well.

For more, check out the Secret Effects of Lifting Weights Just Once Per Week.

Hedy Phillips
Hedy is a freelance writer with years of experience covering buzzy food trends, wellness, and weight loss. Read more