It’s well proven that sport is beneficial to our physical well being and we’ve written lots about it. Studies have also proven that exercise can play a deeply therapeutic role in addressing psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, stress and sleeping problems.
Let’s break this down to explain how sport / exercise is so import to our mental well being:
1. Prevention and management of depression and anxiety
Exercise has been described as a “wonder drug” in preventing and managing mental health. Many GPs now prescribe physical activity for depression, either on its own or in conjunction with other treatments. When we are physically active, whether that means getting out for a walk, run, gym or playing sport, our mind is distracted from daily stressors and thoughts. This helps us avoid getting bogged down by negative thoughts. Exercise actually reduces the levels of stress hormones in your body and at the same time, it stimulates production of endorphins. These are natural mood lifters that can keep stress and depression at bay.
2. Stress buster
Research on working adults shows that active people tend to have lower stress rates compared to those who are less active. Regular exercise also has the power to increase one’s concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. On a simpler level, doing physical activity takes the mind of compulsive thoughts and helps relax the brain.
3. Physical activity can also prevent cognitive decline, boost brainpower, sharpen memory.
Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment. We’ve listed these sports as the most mentally challenging sports you can play.
4. Exercise improves your mood
Know that relaxing feeling after doing physical exercise? That’s because physical activity triggers brain chemicals that make you feel happier and more relaxed. And if you play team sports then there are additional benefits as you also get the social interaction and engagement with team mates.
5. Better self-esteem
Physical activity has a big impact of our self-esteem – that’s how we feel about ourselves and our perceived self-worth. This is a key indicator of mental wellbeing. Those with improved self-esteem can cope better with stress and improves relationships with others. Young people who develop an athletic skill feel more positive about their bodies and their physical abilities. Therefore, their self-esteem improves.
6. Sport helps you sleep
Sports and other forms of physical activity improve the quality of sleep. They do this by helping you fall asleep faster and deepening your sleep. Sleeping better can improve your mental outlook the next day, as well as improve your mood. Whatever you choose to do, the more you are active during the day, the more likely you will be to relax and fall asleep at night.
Just be careful not to engage in sports too late in the day. Evening practices within a few hours of bedtime may leave you too energised to sleep!
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