The cliché proves hard to shake. Tai Chi is all the older person can aspire to in martial arts. With the proper approach and gradual training, MMA is another option for those still not ready to join the placid groups in the park.
While it is tempting to watch clips on MartialArtsVideos.com of athletes in peak fitness and think MMA is only for a few, the benefits of MMA fitness are open to everyone. Covering every major aspect of health, it can be a form of exercise well-suited for older age.
Perhaps the cornerstone of fitness in later life, flexibility is a crucial benefit of MMA fitness. MMA includes dynamic stretching, as used in the range of motion of kicks, and static stretching, found in grappling and wrestling positions.
For older athletes, the benefits of increased flexibility will include an improved range of motion in training. However, in everyday life, flexibility also will translate into better posture, balance, and reduced risk of injury.
MMA fitness culture places a premium on strength training as part of the overall fitness regime. This emphasis often means the pursuit of dedicated strength training, either in the form of weight training or intense calisthenics. For the older person, this strength training can cut both ways.
Even the fundamental core rotations and plyometric movements of striking or grappling are forms of strength training. These techniques contribute to maintaining a strong core and lower back strength.
However, the reduced hypertrophy with later life also means strength training can be a risky endeavor. Your best bet is to hire a coach or find a gym that can help you create a structured plan.
When you do it correctly, MMA training can be a dynamic way to boost muscle strength across the entire body.
Your activities outside the dojo are as essential as your movements inside. Sometimes, doing nothing proves to be the best way to train.
Some studies have found evidence for the generally-held belief that older bodies require longer recovery times. While you might feel like Randy Couture after an intense workout, it is always vital to let your body recover before training hard again.
Beyond general inactivity, the classic recovery techniques of ice, contrast showers, and sports massages are invaluable. You may right losing any progress you’ve made by straining or injuring yourself, only due to a refusal to rest and recover.
Though an expression of controlled physical violence, MMA, like any athletic sport, can be a source of mental training as well as physical.
The training program built into MMA means that self-discipline, focus, and perseverance are mental attributes that develop alongside physical ones. But MMA also offers even higher-order mental states—as expressed by Sam Harris—like truth against self-deception, and even ethics.
For these reasons, meditation has become a central part of MMA training individually and competitively. With dedicated Attention State Training (AST), the cognitive benefits yield to both the young and old.
Lastly, it is vital to continually be aware of your level when engaging in any part of MMA fitness. Anyone can begin training and improve in any aspect listed above, but not overnight, or through recklessly intense training.
Before taking up any form of MMA, check with your doctor about the possible risks. Also, calibrating exercises to your level might mean focusing on the basics of BJJ to build strength and flexibility. You want to do this before trying the throws or takedowns of Greco-Roman wrestling or Judo.
Also, before beginning down the path of MMA training, consider why you are doing it. If you are expecting to become world-class in two months, you won’t get anywhere. Instead, you want to approach it as a series of steps towards gradually improving your fitness and quality of life.
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Founder, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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