Engaging in physical activities such as exercise or sports does not only have physical benefits but mental benefits as well. Many research and studies have also found that sports participation can have a positive impact on your mental well-being.
We gathered the seven mental benefits of sports to motivate you to start a healthy lifestyle. Whether you prefer individual sports, team sports, or other forms of sports, the sooner you start a sport will help you improve your mental health.
If you want to know more about the top 7 mental benefits of sports, keep reading.
The Top 7 Mental Benefits of Sports
1. Improves Your Mood
Engaging in physical activity is one thing you can do if you want a burst of relaxation and happiness. Physical activities such as working out at a gym, playing sports, or taking a brisk walk are natural mood lifters. These activities activate your brain chemicals, making you feel happier and at ease.
For instance, team sports also offer you a satisfying challenge to participate and unwind to improve your fitness. Not to mention, they also provide social benefits by connecting with your teammates in a recreational setting.
According to a study by Harvard Medical School, running for 15 minutes a day or an hour of exercise reduces the risk of major depression. Study author Karmel Choi states that they saw a 26% decrease in odds for becoming depressed for each major increase in objectively measured physical activity.
The increase in physical activity is what you’ll see on your activity tracker if you replace one hour of moderate activity or 15 minutes of sitting with 15 minutes of exercise. So, if you’re looking for a healthy way to improve your mental health without spending money.
2. Sports Improve Your Concentration
Another perk of regular exercise for your mental health is it maintains your key mental skills sharp as you grow older. Some examples of mental skills include learning, using, critical thinking, and good judgment.
A study by TheBMJ has also revealed that doing a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities is extremely valuable. We recommend sports participation of three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes is needed to achieve these mental health benefits.
3. Reduces Depression and Stress
Being physically active can positively affect your mental health because your mind is preoccupied with daily stresses. When you stay active, you are prevented from having negative thoughts as well. Not to mention, sports reduce the stress hormones of your body.
Regular physical activity also stimulates the production of a happiness chemical called endorphins, which keep your depression and stress at bay.
According to a study by the Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry, the efficacy of exercise in reducing symptoms of depression is well established. However, it is also important to note that depression may be a risk factor for not exercising, some reported drop-out rates among depressed patients are not too different from those in the general population.
Another benefit of endorphins is that it leaves you feeling more positive and relaxed after a hard workout in the gym. According to experts, they need to conduct more studies to specify the relationship between depression and sports.
4. Boosts Your Self-Confidence
A boost in self-esteem and self-image is one of the many mental benefits of sports. Apart from its physical benefits, playing sports improves your skills, strength, and stamina.
In a study by TheSportJournal, a statistically significant correlation was found in self-esteem in those who participated in sports and those that did not. In other words, undergraduate students who indicated having prior sports experience also pointed to having higher levels of self-reported self-esteem.
Sports help your mental health by offering you a sense of control and mastery, leading to a feeling of self-confidence and pride. Thanks to the energy from the physical activity, you’ll be likely to succeed in different tasks.
5. Offers Strong Leadership Qualities
Outdoor activities and team sports such as baseball, football, and basketball will not only help improve your physical health but also develop the breeding grounds of leadership qualities.
According to a study by the Men’s Sana Monogr (2015), playing sports or engaging in extracurricular activities play an important part in one’s character or personality development. One develops management skills, negotiation skills, communication skills, convincing skills, conflict management, and confidence.
Individuals who get involved in sports are naturally inclined to embrace a “team mindset”, may it be in the field, the workplace, or social situations. Over time, having a team mindset leads to strong leadership qualities.
6. Improves Sleeping Habits
Sports and other types of physical activity improve your sleep quality. Being physically active allows you to fall asleep faster. As a result, you fall into a deep sleep.
Sleeping better can also enhance your mental outlook when you wake up the next day. However, we don’t recommend you to do any physical activity or sport too late in the day. Doing evening practices before bedtime might make you too energized to sleep.
Research by HopkinsMedicine indicates that exercise decreases insomnia and sleep complaints in patients. The effects of sleep in aerobic exercise also appear to be equal to taking sleeping pills. More research is also required to compare medical treatments and physical activity for insomnia.
7. Helps You Maintain a Healthy Weight
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they recommend sports participation for individuals to maintain weight. They suggest engaging in individual sports such as cycling, running, and weight lifting to build muscle and burn calories.
A study by Prog Cardiovasc Disc (2014), playing sports or physical activity offers numerous health benefits, especially for overweight and obese people at risk or with current CV conditions.
It’s also important to stay within a recommended weight range to help reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
Playing sports offers many mental benefits such as strong leadership traits, a reduction in clinical anxiety, and weight management, to name a few. Young people involved in sport help improve their mental health and happiness at a young age. The sooner you start and pick a sport, the earlier you reap the many benefits of it!
We recommend you consult a medical professional first before you start practicing any sport to avoid future health issues and complications. It’s also essential to remember that injuries can happen whenever you play a sport.
If you liked this article, you might want to read our other articles at ExpertFitness.org.
Nathan Lloyd, MSc
LICENSED PERSONAL TRAINER
I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.
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