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The Culture of Fitness: Capoeira

WATCH: Fitness looks different around the world. How do exercise regimens from different cultures compare to a traditional gym routine?

The What’s Your Fitness Age series was a gym-centric approach to health and fitness. But fitness looks different around the world.

The Culture of Fitness is a four-part series that will explore fitness regimens from different cultures and how their methods compare and contrast to a traditional gym routine.

This week is all about capoeira.

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art developed over 500 years ago by enslaved Africans in Brazil. Capoeira is a unique combination of martial arts, acrobatics, music, dance and culture.

READ MORE: What’s Your Fitness Age — Senior fitness competition

Capoeira can be an effective fitness regime because it’s a fun and challenging way to develop both mental and physical strength through self-expression. This multi-disciplinary art form focuses on the musical, physical, artistic and creative aspects of its practitioners.

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According to the team at Axe Capoeira Toronto, there are a number of physical benefits to capoeira training.

Stress reduction: A regular capoeira practice does wonders for relaxing the mind and body. Any capoeirista can attest to the dramatic shift in attitude before and after class.

Strength: Capoeiristas are always moving around on their hands in handstands, rolls and poses. This makes a marked improvement on upper body strength. Also, so many of the movements require one to engage the abs and core strength that one has no choice but to whip them into shape.

Flexibility: Some capoeiristas are on par with serious yoga practitioners in terms of their flexibility. But even those who moderately improve their flexibility lower their risk for injury and increase their everyday mobility.

Cardio and stamina: Many times, athletes from various sports are surprised when they feel winded from a capoeira workout. This is because capoeira uses muscle groups and cardio fitness in unique ways. Intense capoeira games can require enormous amounts of energy. This, combined with constant repetition of movements and techniques, makes capoeira a valuable cardio exercise.

Overall fitness: Capoeira will improve your strength, flexibility and stamina, thus improving your overall fitness. It may take a while to become fit, but once you start to take capoeira seriously, you can become the picture of fitness.

Another key feature of this series is to compare each exercise regimen to a traditional gym routine. To do that, we’ve enlisted the services of Jenna Gillen, assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Toronto, to give her determination of the effectiveness of each method of training.

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Here she is talking about capoeira:

Assistant Professor of Exercise Physiology talks about different methods of capoeira
Assistant Professor of Exercise Physiology talks about different methods of capoeira