Exercise as it relates to Disease/The energy expenditure from combat sports and martial arts training and how it can help reach health recommendations

This is an analysis of the journal article "The caloric cost of combat sports and martial arts training in relation to health recommendation" by Władysław Mynarski et al (2013)[1]

What is the background to this research?Edit

Evidence throughout widely known literature proves that physical activity has the ability to assist an individual’s health by reducing the risk of things such as type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity and cardiovascular disease (high blood, heart disease, and stroke) [1][2].

A recent study published in The Lancet Global Health showed that more than 1.4 billion people globally were physically inactive. That means more than one in four adults around the world are not reaching the health recommendations for physical activity[3].

There are many sports that fall into the martial art and combats category, including Jujutsu, Karate, Kickboxing, and more. Each category has specific movements such as throws, kicks, strikes and blocks[1].

Where is the research from?Edit

Mynarski et al[1] from Opole University of Technology, Poland conducted their research in the area of Opole. Władysław Mynarski is well known in this area of study with a number of his studies comparing back to the physical activity recommendation [4] [5] [6]

What kind of research was this?Edit

This is a case-control study, involving Caltrac Monitor Accelerometers to record data.

What did the research involve?Edit

This study was conducted on 89 male subjects aged between 18-46 years old in the Opole region of Poland. All subjects are trained in one of the following sports: aikido, capoeira, jujutsu, kickboxing, kyokushin karate, traditional karate and various martial arts. Selection requirement for the study was targeted at males with at least one-year training experience prior to this study. Subjects trained recreationally 3-4 times a week within their chosen sports. Data was collected using Caltrac Monitor Accelerometers worn underneath sportswear and fastened to the subject's hips.

Prior to training, each subject's age, height and weight were placed into Caltrac Monitor accelerometers to get accurate caloric cost as an indicator of absolute energy expenditure. The metabolic equivalent (METs) defines the intensity of the exercise. Three 60-minutes training sessions were measured and recorded of each of the sports. The structure of these training sessions was as followed:

  • 1) warmup
  • 2) specific fighting techniques
  • 3) sparring
  • 4) stretching or warm-down exercises.

Both absolute and relative means of energy expenditure were recorded and compared to three different health-oriented physical activity recommendation:

  • The American College of Sport Medicine
  • The American Heart Association
  • The World Health Organization.

They all recommended that people should do 30 or more minutes of moderate intensity (3-6 METs) for 5 days a week or 20 or more minutes of high intensity (6+METs) 3 times a week.

Some of the limitations of the study are the subjects were male dominant, it would cast a wider understanding of the results if there were an even amount for both sex. This was a short-term study that should have been a long-term study. In a long-term study, each training session can change in intensity depending on the specific technique that the subjects are learning which is unable to occur in a short-term study.

What were the basic results?Edit

Mynarski et al[1] found that individuals participating in martial arts and combat sports reach recommended physical activity. They found energy expenditure ranged between 130.0- 439.0kcal per session and intensity ranged between 2.0-6.0 METs per session. This shows that their average caloric cost per session studied was sufficient for preserving health. They also saw that the majority of the subjects across the study reached the recommended moderate intensity of exercise, except for those subjects training jujutsu. They saw that the most calories cost expended were during Kyokushin karate and the least in jujitsu training.

Using the data they collected they were able to determine the mean, standard deviation minimum and maximal ranges of each sport. They converted kcal/h to METs to look at the intensity during the sessions and compared that to the physical activity recommendations. They displayed this in a table and graphs[7]

What conclusions can we take from this research?Edit

This study has shown that the majority of martial arts training can help individuals reach physical activity recommendations. It would be interesting to see if the same results would occur in female participants as other studies have shown females burn fewer calories than males[8]. It would also be interesting to see if there was a change in health and body composition with training over a longer period of time.

There are no papers that specifically look at the physical activity recommendation, but there are studies that show various forms of martial arts can benefit health:

  • In a study conducted by Song et al saw that subjects who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes participating in t'ai chi had a better quality of life and better glucose control over a 6 month period [9].
  • In another study, they saw improvement in cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance in overweight/obese adolescents during a 6 month period of Kung Fu training [10]
  • Another study along with a Meta-analysis of Qigong and Tai Chi saw numerous health benefits. A meta-analysis is the gold standard for evidence[11]

These studies show martial arts and combat sports are able to improve and individuals health or maintain/prevent chronic disease.

Practical adviceEdit

This study has shown that most martial arts and combat sports can be effective in helping individuals reach the physical activity recommendations along with improving health. However, individuals will need to participle in a 1-hour class at least 3 times a week in order to successfully reach the recommendations and receive the additional health benefits.

Before taking part in any form of martial arts and combat sports read below:

For further information on the health benefits of martial arts and combat sports read below:


  1. a b c d e Mynarski, W., Królikowska, B., Rozpara, M., Nawrocka, A. and Puciato, D. (2013). The caloric cost of combat sports and martial arts training in relation to health recommendations – initial research. Archives of Budo, 9, pp.127-133.
  2. The Department of Health. (2017). Physical Activity. [online] Available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/phy-activity [Accessed 16 Sep. 2018].
  3. Guthold, R., Stevens, G., Riley, L. and Bull, F. (2018). Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1·9 million participants. The Lancet Global Health, 6(10), pp.e1077-e1086.
  4. Mynarski, W., Nawrocka, A., Rozpara, M. and Garbaciak, W. (2012). Physical activity of male and female adolescents living in a town and a city in the context of public health recommendations. Biomedical Human Kinetics, 4.
  5. Nawrocka, A., Garbaciak, W., Cholewa, J. and Mynarski, W. (2018). The relationship between meeting of recommendations on physical activity for health and perceived work ability among white-collar workers. European Journal of Sport Science, 18(3), pp.415-422.
  6. Mynarski, W., Rozpara, M., Nawrocka, A., Borek, Z., Powerska, A. and Garbaciak, W. (2014). Physical activity of middle-age adults aged 50–65 years in view of health recommendations. European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, 11(2), pp.141-147.
  7. Mynarski, W., Królikowska, B., Rozpara, M., Nawrocka, A. and Puciato, D. (2013). The caloric cost of combat sports and martial arts training in relation to health recommendations – initial research. Archives of Budo, 9, pp.130-131
  8. TOSKOVIC, N., BLESSING, D. and WILLIFORD, H. (2002). The Effect of Experience and Gender on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Responses With Dynamic Tae Kwon Do Exercise. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 16(2), p.278.
  9. Song, R., Ahn, S., Roberts, B., Lee, E. and Ahn, Y. (2009). Adhering to a T'ai Chi Program to Improve Glucose Control and Quality of Life for Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(6), pp.627-632.
  10. Tsang, T., Kohn, M., Chow, C. and Fiatarone Singh, M. (2010). Kung Fu Training Improves Physical Fitness Measures in Overweight/Obese Adolescents: The “Martial Fitness” Study. Journal of Obesity, 2010, pp.1-10.
  11. Jahnke, R., Larkey, L., Rogers, C., Etnier, J. and Lin, F. (2010). A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. American Journal of Health Promotion, 24(6), pp.e1-e25.