A recent scoping review has explored the impact of hard martial arts training on the functional fitness of older adults. The review analyzed six studies, involving 240 participants, which showed improvements in various fitness parameters such as strength, mobility, aerobic endurance, flexibility, and balance. Despite the positive outcomes, the review suggests that further research is needed due to inconsistencies in the training and a limited number of studies. The preliminary findings suggest that to achieve functional fitness benefits, older adults should engage in hard martial arts training for 60 to 90 minutes at least twice a week for a minimum of eleven weeks.
The review distinguishes hard martial arts, like Karate and Taekwondo, from ‘soft’ martial arts like Tai Chi, noting their focus on powerful techniques and forceful movements. Hard martial arts training has been linked to increased socialization and physical activity adherence among older adults. This is significant because physical inactivity is prevalent in this age group and is associated with health risks and chronic diseases. Current physical activity guidelines recommend at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise weekly, which many adults fail to meet.
The studies included in the review reported varying degrees of improvement across different functional fitness measures. For instance, upper body strength improved by 9.3–34%, while mobility enhancements ranged from 9.5–13.6%. Aerobic endurance and flexibility were also positively affected, with increases up to 13.4% and 316.7%, respectively. Balance improvements were noted at 20.5%. These findings suggest that hard martial arts could be a beneficial alternative to conventional exercise programs, which often see high dropout rates among older adults.
However, the review also highlights several limitations, including the small number of studies available and the difficulty in distinguishing the benefits of ‘hard’ versus ‘soft’ martial arts. It also points out that the varied styles of hard martial arts make it challenging to generalize findings to all older adults. Nonetheless, the review suggests that hard martial arts offer a promising, evidence-based exercise option that could improve functional fitness and potentially enhance the quality of life for older adults.
In conclusion, the scoping review indicates that hard martial arts may serve as an effective physical activity intervention for older adults, with potential benefits to functional fitness parameters critical for maintaining independence and reducing fall risk. However, further research is necessary to solidify these findings and develop concrete recommendations for this population.
- Hard martial arts training can enhance functional fitness in older adults, including improvements in strength, mobility, aerobic endurance, flexibility, and balance.
- Consistent hard martial arts training of 60 to 90 minutes at least twice a week for more than eleven weeks is recommended to observe functional fitness improvements in older adults.
- Further research is necessary to establish hard martial arts as a standard recommendation for improving functional fitness in the older population due to current inconsistencies and limited studies.
“Based upon the limited available literature, training stimulus required a minimum of two sessions a week over a period of greater than eleven weeks, irrespective of previous martial arts exposure to demonstrate benefits.”
More details: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9797003/