How Do Playing Sports Affect Us Mentally?

Men playing beach volleyball
Playing sports can improve self-confidence. (Image: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Sports condition both your body and your mind. Apart from the obvious physical prowess required to participate in any sport; you need the mental discipline to maintain your focus. And like any form of exercise, you’ll benefit from the release of neurotransmitters like endorphins that elevate your mood. Participating in sports, especially ones that require complex movements like skating, can also improve your brain function at work or school through the release of BDNF – brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Any way you look at it, sports can positively affect your mental well-being and acuity.

Improve Your Outlook

Sports participation can make you less depressed. A research team led by Michael Babyak, Ph.D., demonstrated that depressed people who participated in structured sporting activities for 4 months were more likely to report minimal or no depressive symptoms than comparative groups who either took medicine for depression or who used both medicine and exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine advocates exercise as a way to alleviate depression in adolescents, citing a 2006 study in the “Journal of Abnormal Psychology” as evidence.

Improve Your Anxiety

If you want to feel less anxious, try participating in sports, according to a December 2005 article in the "American Journal of Psychiatry.” The researchers chemically induced a panic attack in two groups of subjects suffering from an anxiety disorder: one who had just finished exercising for 30-minutes and the other who had rested during this time. After the injection, both groups became more anxious; however, significantly fewer members in the exercising group had a panic attack compared to the at-rest controls.

Improve Your Self-Perception

One of the physical benefits of participating in sports is people tend to lose weight and gain muscle, making themselves look better and improving their self-perception. The Association for Applied Sports Psychology officially lists improved self-perception as a psychological benefit of exercise. Assertions such as these are given further creditability by a 2000 study published in the journal “Pediatric Exercise Science,” using a large sample of 6,923 adolescents. Among both male and female teens, level of exercise was associated with feeling better about their body image.

Improve Your Confidence

If you are feeling less depressed and anxious and viewing yourself more positively, then you would also feel more confident overall. Princeton University Health Services indicates that athletic persons have increased energy, which makes their day-to-day tasks easier. The New York State Department of Health echoes this statement, indicating anyone can tailor a sports routine to their level to improve independence and self-confidence.

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