Health benefits of boxing are endless Picture: Instagram

When you think of boxing, the first people that come to mind are the greats like Rocky Marciano, Jacob "Baby Jake" Matlala and Dingaan Thobela.

Boxing, however, isn't just a sporting contest anymore, as fitness lovers are increasingly using the so-called 'fitness boxing' to keep in shape. And gyms are responding to the demand for this form of sport with many now introducing boxing classes to help fitness junkies reach their fitness goals.

Unlike traditional boxing that requires you to fight with an opponent, fitness boxing has no risk of  head trauma or massive blows as it is only involves throwing punches on  the air or the punching bag - usually in a class where 'boxers' follow the leader. 

Jodie Sardien, also known as Jodie24fit on social media - a personal trainer and sports conditioner at the ETA fitness centre in Rondebosch says adding boxing to your training routine has many added benefits such as enhanced cardiovascular health.

Not only does it improve overall body strength and improves hand and eye coordination, but it has been proven to decrease stress and aid weight loss while it also improves body composition.

“Fitness boxing motivates and makes sure that people achieve their fitness goals. It builds self-confidence and helps them sustain a healthy active lifestyle,” says Sardien.

He believes that the popularity of boxing can be attributed to the energy burst that it is associated with it. 

“Most people go to the gym and easily get comfortable with weights, it's good to keep your body guessing as it adapts faster to the combination of different training styles. Boxing pushes your body to the limits, it really tests your muscle endurance. One of the biggest health benefits of boxing is that it releases stress... after a long day at the office,” adds Sardien.

Steve Burke from Armoury Boxing in Woodstock says boxing is a total-body workout that need a boxer to be in 'great shape from head to toe'. 

It involves a lot of functional training such as  running, crawling, and climbing. Apart from being being a total-body workout, Burke says boxing combines aerobic and anaerobic training for the optimal workout.

"Because the emphasis on punching pads, bags and people, doing this kind of training builds strong arms, shoulders and chests," adds Burke. 

Allen Chizungu, a personal trainer, specialising in boxing and fitness from Kings Boxing Gym in Cape Town says when you decide that you want to take up boxing you need to be disciplined, committed and patience.

As a beginner, he suggests attending private and group classes of boxing so you can get the technique right from the beginning, and as an advanced boxer, he suggests training with other boxers or privately with a boxing coach that will focus on pushing your fitness limits. 

Sardien also recommends changing up your training routines and keep it fun, unless you are training  as a professional boxer.

"Switch things up, one week you can decide to focus on your weight training and hit the weights heavy. The following week you could do no weights at all and just focus on functional training with medicine balls or battle rope. 

"Also, try to research new exercises for yourself... it will increase your knowledge and keep it fun and exciting. Human body adapts faster to change with different routines and training styles,” he said.