Finally, doctors have found a practical way to help women with depression or diabetes. Not the typical mix of drugs and restricted diets. Instead, boxing lessons.
Classes will be ‘prescribed’ on the NHS to help us with our physical and emotional wobbly bits — those problems which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
I can assure you, this initiative is going to be life-saving for all middle-aged females. You don’t need to do Pilates or Pelotons: punching something is a more motivating and satisfying exercise routine.
Whether it’s coping with break-ups or breakdowns — which, as we women know to our sorrow, often tend to go hand in hand — I’ve found there is one genuine remedy: venting your frustrations and despair by pummelling either a punch bag or a sparring partner.
Amanda Platell (pictured), who started boxing 15 years ago following a difficult breakup in a long-term marriage, says that no other form of exercise is as rewarding as punching something.
My friend Ronnie and I began boxing together more than 15 year ago. This was after a complicated, painful end to a long-term marriage.
‘Just imagine you’re punching his face,’ Ronnie suggested, and I did. It felt great. I’d go so far as to say that the pure joy of hitting out when you feel powerless is something of an aphrodisiac. At my lowest moment, I found my vava-voom in boxing.
Ronnie, my partner in crime, and I agreed to spar outdoors at Hampstead Heath when the gym shut down in March 2020.
This is another brilliant thing about boxing: you don’t need a gym. The exercises are easy to do anywhere. Since then, we have been practicing the exercises three times per week. After the wind chill had been added, New Year was our most difficult day. It was below 6c. The ground was icy, sleet struck our faces — yet still I packed up my boxing gloves and set out.
A boring old jog would never have tempted me out in such conditions, but the sheer exhilaration and brutality of boxing reaches the parts of a woman’s brain that no other exercise does.
These energising neurotransmitters rush to the brain when we box. Experts say they block pain receptors, leaving us feeling happy and well-being akin to taking morphine.
There is nothing that can beat the feeling of being able to imagine yourself whacking your torturer (just an imagination, of course!) But I think pugilistic DNA may be in my family. My great-grandfather had to speedily exit his Irish homeland for Australia, working his passage on a ship, after being caught winning a bare-knuckle boxing match — then an illegal sport.
When I was young, my father, who didn’t ever raise an arm in anger, took me along to the garden. There, he introduced me to the art and skill of hitting back.
Now 64, Amanda revealed punching strengthens the muscles all along your arms and shoulders therefore ensuring that she has no bingo wings (file image)
‘Left foot forward, Mandy, left hand raised to your face to protect it, right foot back taking your weight, one punch in the face with your right with all your might, then run like hell.’
All predispositions aside boxing has changed my life. It not only transforms your mind and body, but it can also give you a high-energy feeling of accomplishment. You might not fancy being a fighter, but you’ll love the results of the exercise.
I’m now 64, but I’m happy to report there are no bingo wings flapping here, as punching strengthens the muscles all along your arms and shoulders. And there’s no need for a mid-life boob job either, as repeated right and left hooks firm up the pectoral muscles that hold your breasts aloft.
My bra size had to be remeasured because boxing strengthens the core and back. However, it did make me feel a little deflated to learn that my boyfriend loved my strong back.
Boxing is a brutal and exhilarating exercise that reaches parts like no other.
Kickboxing is a great way to strengthen your legs. You will notice firmer calves and more toned thighs.
One sisterly friend recently said that if I was walking down the street from her without my glasses, she would see me with the legs of an active 50-year old. And Ronnie rather unkindly reminded me recently that there’s even a six-pack hiding away there under my rosé belly.
As profound are the mental health benefits. After 22 years of marriage, a childhood friend lost her husband to a younger man. She called me in despair and asked for help. Boxing was my answer. You’ve gotta punch that guy right out of your life. Working out with a punchbag and a sparring partner, she’s lost a stone in two months and dropped two dress sizes.
My own weight loss wasn’t so dramatic when I first started as I’d already lost a stone during my break-up, but I shed another stone, which hasn’t returned, and I’m far more toned. Boxing is perfect for all ages and genders, however there are some reasons that it’s a great exercise for older ladies.
Amanda said she was able to box her way back to happiness after a long period of deep despair and even depression (file image)
All that pummelling increases your bone density, staving off osteoporosis — a must for any woman over 40.
And constantly crouching and squatting provides the perfect opportunity to simultaneously do your pelvic floor exercises, which don’t just improve your sex life, but could also put off the day when you have to sneak into Boots wearing dark glasses to ask where the Tena pants aisle might be (for your ageing mother, of course).
I’m certainly not alone in my boxing habit. At ‘boxing for fitness’ and ‘boxing-inspired’ classes that don’t involve combat in the ring, such as Boxercise or London boutique gym class Kobox, the balance has tipped in favour of female fighters. More than 63,000 of Kobox’s 85,000 members are women — who say that, as well as boosting their confidence, it’s improved their core strength.
It was surprising to me, however, that the majority of the men who discussed it at a post-boxing meeting at the local pub thought the entire idea of women receiving free boxing lessons on the NHS was completely stupid.
‘A total waste of my money,’ one told me. Others said ‘women don’t have it in them — it’s a man’s sport’ or that ‘women are not strong enough’ and ‘they’re not naturally aggressive’.
Their comments revealed almost Victorian ideas about women — that boxing is not feminine and should remain a man’s domain.
Yes, it might be counter to what some men believe about women. They think that getting strong and sweating is unfeminine.
Women of my generation were taught throughout their lives to be quiet and keep it professional.
But let me tell you that it’s time for a strong upper cut. Give it a go and I promise you’ll find it exhilarating, even liberating.
Knowing that my journey to happiness was not easy after years of despair, and sometimes even depression, it is now.