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Brain Benefits of Exercise: 4 Reasons to Start and Continue Taekwondo

Taekwondo is probably one of the funnest ways to get our dose of weekly exercise, in my opinion. Not only are Taekwondo classes a great workout but they are fun! Taekwondo classes are also energetic because we’re training with friends and because the the drills rotate and change from class to class, keeping it fresh. Most importantly, we will continue to exercise via Taekwondo because its fun and whether we realize it or not, we’re cultivating our minds, bodies and spirt.

Speaking of minds… also known as our brains. Did you know that there are an ever-growing body of research that shows the many ways regular exercise benefits our brains. For example, Wendy Suzuki, neuro-scientist, recently gave a wonderful review of these brain benefits of exercise in her TED talk. Check it out below:


Summary of the brain benefits of exercise:

  1. Boost in mood: Immediate effect on our moods due to increased neurotransmitters after workouts that last at least 2 hours. Other research suggests there is an “exercise dose” for anxiety (high frequency 5-6 days a week short duration 20-30 mins workouts) and for depression (low frequency 3-4 days a week with longer duration 45-60 minutes workouts).
  2. Improved focus: Exercise actually improves attention. For example, a study from 2013 in the Journal of Pediatrics concluded that exercise has “positive implications” on how children with ADHD perform at school.
  3. Long term memory: The hippocampus is involved in long-term memory and is positively impacted by regular exercise in that it produces new brain cells, increasing its volume and enhancing our memory.
  4. Protects against brain diseases: Neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease can be warded off by exercise. This is thought to be because exercise helps improve one’s cardiovascular functioning in our brains as well as the rest of our body.

Remember that there are other great reasons to train in Taekwondo such as to get physically fit, make friends, or learn self defense. Whichever the reason, I want to encourage everyone to go out and exercise for a healthier you.

Question: What is your top TKD training benefit?

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Written by Dr. Yoendry Torres, Psychologist & 4th Dan Taekwondo

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3 Reasons to Incorporate Mindfulness Meditation into Your Training

Meditation is a mental exercise that has been taught and practiced in both traditional and sport Taekwondo dojangs across the world. Meditation has also been featured in countless martial arts movies such as The Karate Kid and USA Taekwondo has written articles about “Clearing Your Mind Using Meditation.” It’s important to know that there are various styles of meditation but for the sake of brevity, we will discuss “mindfulness meditation,” which is the stye taught to students at Taekwondo Wellness.

So what exactly is mindfulness mediation and how can it benefit your martial arts practice?

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Thus, mindfulness meditation is the practice of intentionally paying attention to the present moment without judgment or criticism. Mindfulness can be practiced both formally and informally. Formal practice is done by setting aside a specified amount of time (e.g., 5, 10, 30 minutes per day, etc) to practice mindfulness while informal practice is done throughout one’s day by simply paying attention at various moments during one’s day (e.g., while eating, showering, walking, training, etc).

 How to Practice

  1. For formal practice: Get into a comfortable position. Can be sitting with legs crossed, sitting in a chair or even laying down. For informal practice simply do steps 2-3 throughout your day for moments at a time.
  2. Close your eyes and inhale. Focus your attention on your breath. Notice if your shoulders, chest, or abdomen move as you inhale or exhale. Continue to breathe in and out at your natural rhythm.
  3. You will soon notice that our mind naturally begin to wonder and experience all sorts of thoughts and feelings and our senses are heighten. For example, you may notice sounds that were in the background that you hadn’t noticed before. This is normal. The task is to simply notice your experience without judgement or criticism and return your attention to your focus of attention (usually one’s breathe but can also be to other things like our sense of sound).

Reasons to Practice

  1. Relaxation is a major benefit of this sort of meditation practice. Sport psychologists have shown that anxiety decreases performance in their research. Thus, if you’re nervous before a promotion test, a competition or even a challenging drill in class, meditation is the antidote!
  2. Meditation helps regulate our energy levels. Research has also found that people have an optimum level of energy where they perform at their best. However, if one’s energy is too high, it becomes difficult to concentrate whether it is poomsae, sparring or breaking. Meditation practice lowers our heart rate, which in turn lowers our energy levels allowing us to concentrate and perform better.
  3. Focus is another added benefit of a regular meditation practice. Let me explain, in how to practice step 3 above, the mind wonders and the task is to return to our chosen focus of attention without judgment. This exercise of being distracted and returning attention, followed by being distracted and returning attention gives us the power to focus our attention to what we choose rather than what the brain wants to experience at that moment. This is vital whether it is in a self defense situation or a competition as one would want to focus on the actions that will lead to the desired outcome rather than on emotions such as fear that may leave us frozen in place.
  4. There are many more evidenced-based benefits to mindfulness, just see this article by the American Psychological Association. For example: Reduced rumination, stress reduction, boosts to working memory, focus, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility and relationship satisfaction are benefits demonstrated through research.

Now you know how and why to incorporate a practice meditation into your martial arts training. The key, like in martial arts training, is consistency. The more you practice meditation, the more useful it will when you need it. So I recommend you practice at the end of every class, even if it is just for a minute or two.

Question: Do you practice meditation in your martial arts school? If so, what are the benefits you have noticed?

Liked what you read? Ready to join me in the Taekwondo Wellness Program at Intuition Wellness Center?

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation and to get more information on any one of the many services and programs we offer.

Written by Yoendry Torres, Psy.D.

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Taekwondo Uniform Sizing 101

It’s common for new students or their parents to have uniform sizing question before purchasing their first uniform. Below is a uniform sizing table and a few guidelines that should help you decide what size Taekwondo uniform to purchase for yourself or your child.

Uniform Sizing Table

SIZE

OOO

OO

O

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

HEIGHT

3’ 4”

3’ 9”

4’ 2”

4’ 8”

5’ 2”

5’ 6”

5’ 8”

5’ 10”

6’ 0”

6’ 2”

6’ 4”

WEIGHT (lbs)

35

50

70

90

120

150

170

190

220

240

260

A Few Guidelines
  1. The uniform sizes start from 000 and go up to size 8.
  2. The uniform sizes are based on the height (inches) and weight (lbs) of the student.
  3. When choosing the size of the uniform choose the larger size if there is a size difference between height and weight.
    1. For example, if the student’s height is 4’3″ (size 0) but their weight is 60 lbs (size 00), choose the larger size (size 0).
    2. The same would be true if a student weighted 160 lbs (size 3) and was 5’2″ (size 2), choose the larger size (size 3).
  4. Please know that new uniforms tend to shrink a bit when washed for the first time. So take that into account when purchasing your uniform.
  5. New uniforms usually also come with a matched size white belt; however, some do not, so make sure that the uniform description states it comes with a white belt before purchasing if you are a new student.
  6. Students that have tight fitting uniform tops but pants that fit correctly should purchase a larger size uniform that will fit their comfortably and hem the pants. Alternative, two uniforms can also be purchased.
  7. Parents may be tempted to purchase their child a uniform several sizes up given that their child is growing quickly. Although this is cost effective, it may hinder your child’s ability to move freely in class or even trip them up, if the uniform is not hemmed and is overly large and loose on them. Thus if your a parent planning on purchasing a much larger size uniform for your child, please hem the uniform so it does not prevent them from tripping or from executing their full range of motion.
  8. In Taekwondo Wellness, beginning students wear “White V-Neck Taekwondo uniforms while advanced students (Red belt & above) wear “Black V-Neck Taekwondo uniforms.
  9. Taekwondo Wellness students interested in competing in official World Taekwondo/USA Taekwondo tournaments will be required to purchase an additional competition uniform (and other official equipment for sparring) that meets World Taekwondo sparring or World Taekwondo poomsae uniform specifications.



I hope these uniform guidelines were helpful.

Question: What additional tips do you have when sizing your uniform? Write your responses below in the comment section.

Liked what you read? Ready to join me in the Taekwondo Wellness Program at Intuition Wellness Center?

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation and to get more information on any one of the many services and programs we offer.

Written by Yoendry Torres, Psy.D.

A Word about Affiliates

The Taekwondo recommended gear above contain affiliate links to products. If you click through and purchase, Intuition Wellness Center will receive a small commission on the sale. Rest assured, we only recommend products or services that our team members personally use or believe will be helpful to our readers or clients.

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Obesity, Mental Health, & Taekwondo

The Surgeon General reports that “obesity poses a major pubic health challenge” contributing to an estimated 112,000 preventable deaths annually in the United States (Surgeon General, 2010). Obesity can increase health risks to a number of diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Surgeon General, 2010). Moreover, there are a number of mental health issues associated with obesity such as depression (Surgeon General, 2010). Not only is obesity a serious health concern for adults but it is also an increasing problem, from 5% in 1980 to 17% in 2008, seen among U.S. children (Surgeon General, 2010). Furthermore, there are disparities among some racial groups, specially 29% of non-Hispanic black teenagers and 17.5% of hispanics teenagers are obese, while the prevalence for non-Hispanic white teenagers is 14.5 percent (Surgeon General, 2010). The Surgeon General (2010) points out that although obesity is a health crisis among the general population, it is  “even more prevalent in persons with mental illness with some reports indicating 83% of people with serious mental illness being overweight or obese.” The Surgeon General (2010) recommends 60 minutes of physical exercise. However children tend to struggle with the more traditional routine repetitive workouts that a adult may engage in, thus children require physical exercise that rigorous yet fun enough to keep children engaged in the activity.

Taekwondo is a martial art that uses rigorous physical exercise as a primary form of training. Many children find Taekwondo fun and exciting because they are learning an ancient martial art that is not only a sport, but a discipline that promotes healthy living through training the body and mind. For many practitioners, it is a way of living. Taekwondo strengthens the body through rigorous strength and endurance building exercises and cultivates the mind through the teaching of its philosophy and core principles: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control, and Indomitable Spirit. It is this combination of training the body and mind that has been shown to be effective at reducing aggression (Nosanchuk 1981; Daniels & Thornton 1992; Nosanchuk & MacNeil, 1989; Trulson, 1986; Skelton, Glynn & Berta, 1991; Lamarre & Nosanchuk 1999), increasing self-esteem (Duthie, Hope & Barker 1978; Richman & Rehberg 1986; Kurian, Verdi, Caterino & Kulhavy 1994; Finkenberg, 1990; Trulson, 1986), and decreasing stress (Iso-ahola & Park, 1996; Kurian et al,. 1993; Rothperl, 1980; Foster, 1997, Trulson, 1986). Furthermore, the literature indicates that martial arts are beneficial for various populations, including middle school students (Zivin, et al., 2001), adolescents with a history of violence (Twemlow, & Sacco, 1998), as well as geriatric populations (Cromwell, Meyers, & Newton, 2007).

Intuition Wellness Center is proud to bring Taekwondo Wellness classes this summer (2016) to the Tucson community that will help youth and adults experiencing mental, emotional, or behavioral challenges. Taekwondo Wellness classes will offer instruction in traditional Taekwondo with a focus on the mind-body connection, achieving a healthy balance in life, physical fitness, and relaxation through meditation. Visit our Taekwondo Wellness page to learn more about this exciting new program.

To learn more about obesity visit a previous blog I wrote for Intuition Wellness Center titled: Obesity in the US – Mental Health Implications & Recommendations.

Written by: Yoendry Torres, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

References:

  • Cromwell, R. L., Meyers, P. M., & Newton, R. A. (2007). Tae Kwon Do: An effective Exercise for improving balance and walking ability in older adults. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 62, 641-646.
  • Daniels, K. & Thornton, E. W. (1992). Length of training, hostility and the martial arts: a comparison with other sporting groups. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 26(3), 118-120.
  • Duthie, R. B., Hope, L., & Barker, D. G. (1978). Selected personality traits of martial artists as measured by the adjective checklist. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 27, 71-76.
  • Finkenberg, M. E. (1990). Effect of participation in taekwondo on college women’s self-concept. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 71, 891-894.
  • Foster, Y. A. (1997). Brief Aikido training versus Karate and golf training and university students’ scores on self-esteem, anxiety, and expression of anger. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 84(2), 609-610.
  • Iso-ahola, S. E., & Park, C. J. (1996). Leisure-related social support and self-determination as buffers of stress-illness relationship. Journal of Leisure Research, 28(3), 169-187.
  • Kurian. M., Caterino, L. C., & Kulhavy, R. W., (1993). Personality characteristics and duration of ATA Taekwondo training. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 76, 363-366.
  • Kurian, M., Verdi, M. P., Caterino, L. C., & Kulhavy, R. W. (1994). Relating scales on the children’s personality questionnaire to training time and belt rank in ATA Taekwondo. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 79, 904-906.
  • Lamarre, B. W., & Nosanchuk, T. A. (1999). Judo – the gentle way: a replication of Studies on martial arts and agresión. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 88, 992-996.
  • Nosanchuk, T. A. (1981). The way of the warrior: the effects of traditional martial arts training on aggressiveness. Human Relations, 34(6), 435-444.
  • Nosanchuk, T. A., & MacNeil, M. L. C. (1989). Examination of the effects of traditional and modern martial arts training on aggressiveness. Aggressive Behavior, 15, 153-159.
  • Richman, C. L., & Rehberg, H. (1986). The development of self-esteem through the martial arts. International Journal of Sports Psychology, 17, 234-239.
  • Rothperl, A. (1980). Personality traits in martial artists: A descriptive approach. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 50(2), 395-401.
  • Skelton, D. L., Glynn, M. A., & Berta, S. M. (1991). Aggressive behavior as a function of Taekwondo ranking. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 72, 179-182.
  • Surgeon General, 2010
  • Trulson, M. E., (1986). Martial arts training: a novel “cure” for juvenile delinquency. Human Relations, 39(12), 1131-1140.
  • Twemlow, S. W., & Sacco, F. C. (1998). The application of traditional martial arts practice and theory to the treatment of violent adolescents. Adolescence, 33, 505-519.
  • Zivin, G., Hassan, N. R., DePaula, G. F., Monti, D. A., Harlan, C., Hossain, K. D., & Paterson, K. (2001). An effective approach to violence prevention: Traditional martial arts in middle school. Adolescence, 36, 443-459.
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