Differences Between Athletes & Nonathletes

Outside appearance may be the most obvious difference between an athlete and nonathlete. Athletic types tend to have more muscles and less body fat than more sedentary people. The physical capabilities of athletes may exceed those who don't regularly engage in exercise, and active sports people also tend to have fewer health problems.

A fit woman is standing on a treadmill. (Image: Bojan656/iStock/Getty Images)

Lower Heart Rate

Athletes' heart rates tend to be lower than heart rates of non-athletes. A low resting heart rate is generally a sign of good cardiovascular fitness and efficiency. A well-trained athlete may have a normal resting heart rate of only 40 beats per minute, compared with the average heart rate that ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute.

Lower Disease Risk

Athletic types may have better overall health and be less apt to develop certain diseases. Regular exercise boosts your immune system and lowers the risk of serious health conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Physical activity can also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis while helping to manage cholesterol levels and blood pressure. You gain about two hours of additional life expectancy for each hour of regular exercise, according to the American Heart Association.

Psychological Effects

Athletes may have better mental clarity and focus than non-athletes. Exercise increases the flow of oxygen, which has a direct impact on brain function, explains the American Heart Association. Exercise can help improve your memory and reduce negative feelings, such as anger, tension, anxiety and depression.

A comprehensive study of the academic performance of North Carolina high school student-athletes in North Carolina over a three-year period attests to the positive psychological effects of athletic capabilities. Researchers discovered obvious differences between athletes and non-athletes. The study of nearly 127,000 high school students found dropout rates were lower and grade point averages were higher in students who participated in sports. The study was led by Dr. Roger Whitley in collaboration with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

Motivated by Excellence

Athletes, especially competitive athletes, have high ambitions. It's a trait that allows them to persevere through setbacks and failures and to come out the other side stronger. Athletes are highly motivated individuals who set their sights on a prize and are single-minded in their pursuit of excellence. They are propelled by passion to become the best they can be and the benefits of that inner drive are a higher level of self-esteem and confidence.

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