Martial arts have become a popular afterschool activity for youths across the globe. Accumulating data suggest that these activities may confer substantial cognitive and psychological benefits, and recent efforts have been made to introduce martial arts training into educational and rehabilitation settings. However, few studies have examined the potential mechanisms that may underlie these benefits. The current study evaluated the reactivity of two hormones, oxytocin (OT) and cortisol (CT), thought to be respectively involved in regulating mammalian social behaviors and responsivity to stress, to a session of intensive martial arts training in samples of at high-risk and low-risk (in regular educational establishments) youths. OT and CT were measured at baseline, during peak training, and following a cool down period. Analyses revealed that high-risk youths had lower OT but similar CT baseline levels, compared to low-risk youths, prior to the martial arts session. A significant group by time interaction indicated that whereas the OT levels among low-risk youths returned to baseline levels following training, OT levels among high-risk youths remained elevated. Finally, unlike low-risk youths for whom CT levels continued to increase throughout the training session, high-risk youths showed no significant CT reactivity. This study suggests that some of the beneficial effects of martial arts may be related to hormonal processes, especially increases in OT levels, and highlights the differing effects that training may have in different populations.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the Ministry of Science, Technology & Space, Israel (Grant #3-13631 ) to Drs. Rassovsky and Feldman.
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd
- martial arts