Let’s say you’re working out at your local gym, and you happen upon the weekly group fitness schedule. Among all the Zumba classes and yoga sessions, you see that there’s a kickboxing class. Hmm. Has the thought crossed your mind to try a kickboxing class before? What is kickboxing anyway?

While Karate has been practiced and mastered since the 19th century, kickboxing is a relatively young sport, termed in the 1950s by a Japanese boxing promoter. According to Mike McLaughlin for Livestrong, it was soon adapted by the United States during the 70s, as American Karate practitioners grew tired of tournament scoring limitations and decided to take the action to the boxing ring instead. Kickboxing became mainstream once ESPN began broadcasting matches in 1979, reports McLaughlin.

How does this translate to that class at your local gym? Even though kickboxing began as a combat sport, the fighting fundamentals have since been translated into a group fitness class and set to music to produce an intense, engaging cardio workout. Depending on the class, you’ll either be combating the air or a punching bag. Most gyms that have a “kickboxing class” are referring to this cardio workout, and you won’t be sparring with other classmates or competing in competitions.

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5 things to expect if you try a kickboxing class

  1. You’ll learn fundamental self-defense techniques. You might not be sparring, but you’ll certainly be going through the motions. In an average kickboxing class, you’re going to be learning jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercut punches, as well as roundhouse, front, side, and back kicks. For women especially, kickboxing makes you feel more empowered and confident.
  2. It’s true — you’ll tone your entire body. Those uppercut punches and jabs are all about the arms, while roundhouse kicks will kick your hamstrings, quads, and glutes right into gear. All of these movements are going to utilize your core and back muscles to help the body maintain proper form and range of motion. And you’ll be burning around 750 calories an hour.
  3. You’ll experience a range of health benefits. Jessica Timmons for Healthline writes that kickboxing can “improve flexibility, balance, and coordination, and can help you build faster reflexes.” And not only will the fat and calories be melting away by the minute, but you can also say goodbye to stress. In a group setting, kickboxing allows you to release your pent-up energy and emotions from the day in an environment that fosters healthy competition and creates friendships. And if you attend your gym’s kickboxing class every week, expect your energy levels to increase, your mood to improve, and your head to hit the pillow faster each night.
  4. Don’t worry — you can go at your own pace. Don’t know what an uppercut is? Never tried a roundhouse kick? Not to worry! Let your instructor know you’re a beginner so they can help you achieve proper form. Don’t be embarrassed to go at your own pace. It is a high-intensity cardio class, so take breaks when necessary, and be sure to bring plenty of water. If you’re nervous about your lack of previous experience, your local gym might even offer different skill-leveled classes or teach you easier variations of certain movements. Rest assured, you can start at any skill level, age, or size—your instructor will help you find a routine that’ll benefit your body the most.
  5. You’re going to find the fun in exercising again. Are you bored by treadmills or stationary bicycles? Can’t bear to do another crunch? Not only will you be gaining confidence in your body and its power by the minute, but you’ll be sweating away your daily stresses alongside your closest fitness pals, all to bouncy, upbeat music. Those minutes will tick away with every jab and uppercut punch. Every time you come back for more, the movements will get easier, and you’ll see your body progress as you attend more and more classes.