Shadow boxing regularly offers all the benefits of cardiovascular exercise: higher energy, elevated mood and a decreased chance of illnesses, to name just a few. The more you mimic an actual boxer in a match, the more effective your workout will be. Punching might seem easy at first, but you’ll quickly find out how tiring the activity can be.
Boxers move their feet constantly to position themselves for punches and to stay outside an opponent’s range. Jabs, uppercuts and roundhouses require excellent coordination and well-developed upper-body muscles. Add in all the torso twists involved in dodging and feinting and you have a full-body workout that can tax even the fittest.
Throwing a few punches in front of the mirror won’t develop your cardiovascular system. Shadow boxing rounds are only effective when you achieve the right level of intensity. If you want to keep your workouts short, aim for a vigorous level of activity: your heart rate should be up and your breathing deep and rapid. It should be difficult to say more than a few words without stopping to breathe. Just 75 minutes per week at this level of activity is enough to achieve the benefits of cardiovascular exercise, according to MayoClinic.com.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, start off slow. Aim for 150 minutes of moderately intense activity per week. For example, keep your hands up in the air, throwing occasional punches but not overdoing it. Dodge an imaginary opponent’s punches and keep your feet moving. At a moderate level of exercise intensity, you should be able to talk but not sing, and you’ll begin to sweat about 10 minutes after starting.
Boxing also burns a significant number of calories: a 155-pound person sparring for half an hour burns 335 calories, according to Harvard Medical School. You can increase the calorie-burning benefits of boxing by working harder. For example, shadow boxing while jogging could burn more calories than either form of exercise would alone, depending on how fast you run and punch.
Join a cardio class that focuses on boxing movements to learn proper form. Kickboxing classes, for example, combine traditional boxing movements and vigorous kicks, developing overall fitness. The class leader will help you achieve the right level of intensity for your fitness goals and motivate you to keep going when you tire.
Stan Mack is a business writer specializing in finance, business ethics and human resources. His work has appeared in the online editions of the "Houston Chronicle" and "USA Today," among other outlets. Mack studied philosophy and economics at the University of Memphis.