How & Why You Can Combat Depression Through Martial Arts

Punch bag

There has been an eternal debate about the best ways to avoid/cure depressions. Often times people that have not experienced depression will talk about finding hobbies while people with depression said that it does not have any positive benefits. The “normal” way to combat depression is usually to shield and alienate yourself. If you are going through depression there are a variety of things that you can do. Do sports such as weight training, soccer, or my personal favourite which is martial arts. More specifically Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Is there any scientific proof and case studies on how martial arts can help you in the journey of eliminating depressions? This is quite an old question and thankfully research has shown us many data that can be used as our base of opinion in deciding whether martial arts is the right fit or not.


Interesting Facts About Sports & Depression

First, let’s take a look at science aspect of it. In 2018, the American Journal of Psychiatry published a meta-study that analysed data from 49 individual prospective studies. In total, the data from almost 267,000 people were taken into account in this meta study, some of which were observed over a longer period of time.

The results of the study speak a clear language: across gender and age differences and cultural boundaries, it was shown that physical activity can apparently provide effective protection against depression and has a positive effect on symptoms and diagnoses of depression.


How Does Sport Help With Depression?

Is there any scientific research about the influence of doing sports to treat mild and moderate depression? According to a Norwegian study from 2017, 12% of all emerging depression can be prevented by exercising, while also reducing existing depression by up to 50%. Conversely, it was observed in the study that only 7% of the physically active persons examined suffered from depression and that the frequency of depression among persons who do not engage in any physical activity is almost 70% greater than that of people who exercise and exercise regularly move.


Best Sports for Treating Depression

Of course, you don’t have to do competitive sports to achieve a positive effect through sports. According to the Norwegian study by Professor Harvey mentioned, one hour of moderate physical activity per week is enough to effectively counter mild to moderate depression. A higher dose of exercise was not proportionally better effective.

However, the question of the right amount of sport has not been finally clarified. In this same context, for example, an Australian study came to a different conclusion: the researchers recommend at least three times half an hour of exercise at medium to high intensity in order to achieve a positive effect. However, none of the studies mentioned differentiated between different sports. An important factor seems to be the consequence with which people suffering from depression maintain sports programs in the long term. A study from 2012 found that depressed patients find it harder to run a sports program over the long term than psychological therapy. In the former, the long-term fulfilment rate over 10 weeks was only 65%, compared to 84% for psychological therapy.


Why Martial Arts is The Right Choice

However, none of the studies differentiate between the sports practised, so it is unclear whether there are sports here that are more suitable than others. In their entirety, however, the studies indicate that sports that are better for the person concerned also promise better success in the long term. Because this actually seems to be the biggest cliff. Even the best therapy can only help if you do it. Of course, this also applies to sports. If you just can’t get yourself to jog in cloudy weather or scorching sun, you might be better off doing strength training or yoga, provided this sport is more fun for you.

To combat depression, just about any sport that is fun and that you can do over a long period of time is suitable. However, those sports in which inner-centeredness and collection play a role seem to have a slight advantage. This includes in particular many Asian martial arts, Thai Chi, Yoga and its variants. The concentration required in these sports is similar to that in meditation. But other sports such as fitness training, tennis or weight training can also work well against stress and depression. Because no matter what sport it is, you have to go out of the house and the body releases endorphins through the physical exertion. In addition, the achievement of sporting goals increases self-confidence – also a good ally in the fight against depression.


John Ananto is a BJJ blue belt and full time remote website developer. In his free time he wrote about things on his blog about martial arts and everything in between

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.