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British Journal of Sports Medicine








Objectives: To quantify and compare fitness levels of middle aged practitioners of soo bahk do (SBD; a Korean martial art similar to karate) with those of sedentary subjects.

Methods: Eighteen volunteers, 14 men and four women (aged 40-60 years), participated. Nine sedentary subjects (mean age 46.7 years) and nine SBD practitioners (mean age 46.8 years) were matched for sex and age. All subjects participated in a one day battery of fitness tests. The following dependent variables were tested: body composition, balance, flexibility, quadriceps strength, grip strength, muscle endurance, and aerobic capacity.

Results: All dependent variables were analysed using paired t tests. Body composition (% body fat) for the SBD group was 18.9% v 30.8% for the sedentary group (p = 0.004). The SBD group was able to balance for 61.8 seconds v 26.2 seconds for the sedentary group (p = 0.02). The result for the sit and reach flexibility test was 22.3 cm for the SBD group v 10.4 cm for the sedentary group (p = 0.01). The number of push ups performed in one minute was 47.0 for the SBD group v 18.6 for the sedentary group (p = 0.0003), and the number of sit ups performed was 66.1 for the SBD group and 37.3 for the sedentary group (p = 0.00006). Aerobic capacity was 41.0 ml/kg/min v 31.1 ml/kg/min for the sedentary group (p = 0.04). Quadriceps strength was 99.5% (peak torque/body weight) v 83.0% for the sedentary group (p = 0.02). Only grip strength was not significantly different.

Conclusions: There were significant differences between the groups for most of the physical fitness tests. The SBD practitioners displayed greater aerobic capacity, balance, flexibility, muscle endurance, and strength, and less body fat than the sedentary controls matched for age and sex. SBD can be considered an excellent form of exercise for the promotion of fitness in adults. Health professionals should be aware that there are alternative methods to traditional exercise that can increase the physical fitness and health of the middle aged population.


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Original Publication Citation

Douris, P., Chinan, A., Gomez, M., Aw, A., Steffens, D., Weiss, S., & Echternach, J. (2004). Fitness levels of middle aged martial art practitioners. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 38(2), 143-147. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2002.001768