ACE Research Team Counts Calories, Confirms Benefits of Cardio Kickboxing

Posted: Jul 12, 1999 in

SAN DIEGO - Whether or not Billy Blanks’ Tae-Bo workout tapes have anything to do with it, exercise enthusiasts are demanding cardio kickboxing classes at their neighborhood fitness centers. At gyms across the country, the classes are the hottest thing going, and now, thanks to a recent study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), consumers can be assured they are getting a good aerobic workout.

The ACE study, the first publicly released research about the physiological effects and benefits of cardio kickboxing, found that the activity provides a workout sufficient enough to improve and maintain cardiovascular fitness. To perform the ACE study, Len Kravitz, Ph.D., headed a team of researchers from the University of Mississippi. They measured heart rate, caloric consumption, oxygen consumption and ratings of perceived exertion for each of four kickboxing concentrations: upper-body predominant (e.g., upper cuts, jabs); lower-body predominant (e.g., roundhouse kicks, front and back kicks); combination of upper and lower body; and conditioning (e.g., jumping jacks, simulated rope jumping).

Participants in the study—15 women with an average weight of 135 pounds—burned the most calories while performing a combination of upper-and lower-body movements. Overall, caloric expenditure ranged from 6.45 calories per minute (with predominately upper-body exercises) to 8.3 calories per minute (with an upper/lower body combination).

The caloric findings indicate that most cardio kickboxing participants can expect to burn an average of 350 to 450 calories per hour — less than original estimates, but enough to be considered a good workout.

"Original estimates suggested that cardio kickboxing can burn up to 500 to 800 calories per hour," ACE’s Chief Exercise Physiologist, Richard Cotton said. "Realistically, only a very large person exerting an above-average amount of energy for an extended period of time would be able to do that."

Burning 350-450 calories, an hour-long cardio kickboxing session is roughly equivalent to an hour of brisk walking or light jogging. Cardio kickboxing, however, provides additional benefits not associated with walking or jogging such as increased strength and flexibility, as well as improved coordination and sharper reflexes.

Participants in the ACE study also maintained a heart rate of 75-85 percent of maximum, well within the recommended 65-85 percent range for aerobic exercise.

Those who start a cardio kickboxing program should be aware that the moves might be unfamiliar to beginners, so the possibility for muscle and joint injury is increased. Trained instructors who can demonstrate proper kickboxing technique should teach classes. Before signing up for a class, make sure the instructor is properly certified by an organization such as ACE. Consumers can call ACE at (800) 825-3636 to check if an instructor is ACE-certified.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nation’s “workout watchdog,” ACE conducts university-based research and testing that targets fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for fitness professionals and is the world’s largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at

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