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Does Exercise Benefit Concealed Carry?

Many people say fitness doesn't directly affect shooting, but there are definitely benefits. So come read up on how a little exercise can up your CCW game.
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    Does exercise even make a difference when you carry concealed? It would seem like having a firearm on you is the most important thing.

    As long as you can draw quickly and shoot accurately, it doesn’t matter what shape you’re in. Right?

    Wrong. If you ask me, you need both firearms training and exercise.

    I’ve been lifting weights for roughly 25 years and advocate for keeping your body strong and healthy. I don’t care what my body looks like, but I care how it feels, moves, and performs.

    Many people say fitness doesn’t directly affect shooting, and while I tend to agree, I know for a fact there are benefits.

    Can hitting the gym help?

    Ok, but how does fitness actually benefit the concealed carry part?

    Let’s look at the potential benefits of adding and maintaining an exercise routine.

    Table of Contents


    The Art of Concealment

    Let’s start with the obvious — the goal of concealed carry is, well, to conceal.

    We’re all trying to hide our firearms and avoid the dreaded printing as easy as possible. For my fellow ladies, we know our body shape and wardrobe choices can add an extra hurdle sometimes.

    P365XL Concealed
    The whole point to CCW is to hide the gun, right?

    Can exercise help us with the physical act of concealing? Well, that depends.

    Without turning this into a Richard Simmons infomercial, we must state the obvious. Exercising might help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, making concealed carry more comfortable and accessible.

    C’mon guys and gals…let’s get fit.

    When I first started carrying, I felt I was roughly 20 pounds overweight. My extra weight always settles in my mid-section, right in the dead center.

    I tried approximately 42 different holsters and even convinced myself carrying would not be for me. I found appendix carry uncomfortable, and it was difficult to conceal if I wasn’t wearing thick or baggy shirts.

    Assorted Concealment Express Holsters
    We all have a ton of holsters, right?

    After losing 20 pounds, appendix carry felt a lot easier.

    And while I don’t consider a heavy piece of plastic and metal in my pants to be “comfortable,” it did start to feel a lot better. I even got to the point where I didn’t notice it on most days.

    Oh, there’s a gun there…didn’t notice.

    This is a judgment-free zone, though. Shedding some pounds helped me, and it’s something to consider if you’re also having trouble concealing.

    How Does Exercise Help CCW?

    If you’re even considering concealed carry, it’s likely because you want to protect yourself and the people around you. So, in a self-defense situation, will your level of fitness matter?

    The short answer is yes.

    We’ve all heard people say, “I don’t need to be able to run if I’ve got my gun.”

    I couldn’t think of a more naive perspective. Anyone who’s ever been in a violent situation would likely say physical fitness has its benefits. There’s a reason military and police departments enforce fitness standards.

    Physical strength and cardiovascular health can be an asset in a self-defense situation. Let’s take a look at how the two can help.

    Stress and fear

    If you find yourself in a self-defense situation, you’ll have to deal with fear and stress while trying to survive.

    When you recognize fear, your amygdala starts alerting your nervous system to set off your body’s fear response. Cortisol, the stress hormone, and adrenaline are released, which causes your blood pressure and heart rate to increase.

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    When you hear something go bump in the night, it’s bound to get that heart rate up.

    Some of the fear responses can make you more alert, like your pupils getting larger so you can see better. And others can work against you, like trembling, shortness of breath, and lower cognitive function.

    The better you manage your fear response, the more likely you will survive.

    “According to a 2008 study conducted by Lilianne R Mujica-Parodi and Marc Taylor, individuals with a lower percentage of body fat are less affected by cortisol and have better cognitive function during stressful situations than chubbier test subjects,” Alice Jones Webb says.

    Home Defense Glock G19 at Door
    You’ll perform better if you’ve put in the work.

    In other words, the more fit and healthy you are, the less rattled you may be when stuff hits the fan.

    You can even train this fear response by inducing stress into your shooting. This shooting style can replicate how you’d react in a self-defense situation so you can learn how to deal with your reactions.

    If you’d like to learn more about stress shooting, I recommend fellow PPT writer Travis’ article, [How To] Induce Stress Into Your Shooting Routine.

    Strength Benefits

    Strength and shooting proficiency may not be directly correlated as they are different skills.

    Being strong won’t necessarily make you a better or more accurate shooter. Still, it can be an asset in a self-defense situation.

    Physical strength can help with:

    • Muscle control
    • Grip and stance
    • Recoil management
    • Not feeling beat up after a training session
    • Standing your ground
    • Using cover
    • Crawling and climbing
    • And fighting, if needed

    Not to mention, physically fit and healthy people can overcome injuries more quickly.

    Cardiovascular Fitness Benefits

    If SHTF, the odds of you being able to stand stationary are slim to none. It’s more likely you’ll have to move around, and the faster and easier you can do that, the better your chances of survival.

    A simple walk has its benefits!

    Cardiovascular readiness can help with:

    • Moving while shooting
    • Running for cover
    • Retreating
    • Perception and visual acuity
    • Stamina and endurance
    • Mental acuity
    • And fighting, if needed

    Strong cardiovascular health can also help you keep your wits about you and manage the stress and fear responses you’ll undoubtedly have if you need to pull your gun.

    Somewhere Between Couch Potato and Gym Bro

    There’s no reason to go all-out and adopt some crazy exercise routine unless you want to. A little goes a long way, especially if you’ve been out of the exercise game for a while.

    Let’s aim for somewhere between streaming couch potato and grunting gym bro. The main idea is to elevate your heart rate and maintain it for at least 20 minutes every day.

    Probably don’t need to go that far.

    To start, aim for at least 5,000 steps per day. 10,000 is the universal goal, but 5,000 is easier to achieve initially.

    I take a couple of 25-minute walks every day, and when you add in my other movement, I easily exceed 5,000 steps.

    Getting my steps in.

    I like to multitask on my walks by listening to podcasts or audiobooks. If I’m walking outside, I only wear one earbud at a low volume to stay alert, though. And I’m almost always pacing around my house when I’m on a phone call because little bursts of activity add up.

    Next, you should add in a little bit of strength training. Buy a small set of dumbbells if you’d like, or grab a pack of resistance bands online. This way, you can get started conveniently in the privacy of your own home.

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    When starting, aim for 20 minutes, 2-3 days per week. There are tons of free beginner strength training programs online.

    Disclaimer: I’m just a lifelong fitness enthusiast who likes shooting guns. I’m not a doctor. Not even in New Jersey, like Garand Thumb.

    It’s best to consult with your doctor or a personal trainer before starting any exercise program.

    They just let anyone be a doctor these days.

    Final Thoughts

    Concealed carry is all about self-defense; if it comes down to it, any situation will be stressful. Physical fitness shouldn’t be overlooked because it’s an essential piece of the concealed carry puzzle.

    My years of prioritizing fitness have benefited me in so many ways.

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    A little exercise goes a long way.

    Thankfully I’ve never had to pull my gun, and I won’t predict how I’d react, but staying strong and healthy gives me a little extra peace of mind.

    If you want to put yourself in the best self-defense position possible, look at improving your strength and cardiovascular fitness.

    How do you stay fit? Let us know in the comments below. Interested in more ways to better your performance? Check out our article on Essential Training Tools to Better Your Shooting.

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    6 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar

      All aspects of our lives benefit form exercise. There is no better single activity for the brain than exercise. I'm in my late 40's and I'm in very good shape. No personal trainers, no overpriced lunk gyms, and no fancy nutrition programs are involved in my routines. Just discipline, focus, and a willingness to do hard work smart. It's helped to improve every aspect of my shooting sports, regardless of the firearm.

      April 19, 2023 3:30 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      We carry to protect our loved ones. If we are not around, we can't protect them. I am not saying that people should go all out and train or workout for three hours a day. But a 30 minute walk three times a week does wonders. Too easy you say? Add a pack and ad some weight to it. I ruck 3 to 5 days a week and it has done wonders for my blood pressure, my weight, and my health overall.

      January 2, 2023 5:39 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Excellent article.

      As I moved into my mid-60's, retired from a law enforcement career and DoD contracting overseas, there was clearly a need to restructure the maintenance of my physical (and mental) health. In terms of CCW and shooting in general, I took a few simple steps which have clearly been beneficial. The best for me so far:

      I walk and hike a lot- always with something in my hands. My preferred item is a 'treasured' piece of bamboo maybe 3' long. I grab it tightly to keep my grip, wrists and forearms strong. I use it for various twisting and stretching moves . It also helps to keep my arms limber as I trundle along. I do carry a pistol on these walkabouts, mainly for potentially aggressive black bears. But I'd hate to shoot one and think, possibly, I could fend one off or dissuade one with bad intentions with some well-placed whacks from that stick...

      January 1, 2023 5:56 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Having been in that self-defense situation several times in my carry life... I vote this article the most valuable for pew pew tactical for 2022.

      Half the battle is going to be you controlling you under pressure and stress to make an eye blink, maybe less, moment in time decision to pull the trigger to survive. You only get one chance to make that decision, there are no do-overs, and if you don’t make that decision correctly it may mean the life of a loved one or you or another. Being fit is going to help you make that decision.

      December 31, 2022 5:20 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Fitness and strength provide a person other options than just drawing a gun and shooting someone. Confidence and presence, mobility, less paranoia and anxiety.

      December 31, 2022 1:46 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      An absolutely great article. All types of shooting benefit from regular exercise. The other thing not mentioned is that people in good shape tend to walk and stand taller, move more easily and basically don't look like a soft target. And for those wondering I turn 69 in a couple of weeks.

      December 31, 2022 1:25 pm
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