With about 1 in 6 adults likely to undergo a significant mental health problem at any one time (Office for National Statistics), research into effective interventions has never been more critical. During the past decade, there has been an increasing interest in the part that sport and physical activity can play in the treatment of mental health problems and in mental health promotion. The benefits resulting from physiological changes during exercise are well documented, including improvement in mood and control of anxiety and depression. Research also suggests that socio-cultural and psychological changes arising from engagement in sport and physical activity carry valuable mental health benefits.
Sport and Physical Activity for Mental Health is an evidence-based practical guide for nurses, allied health professionals, social workers, physical activity leaders, and sports coaches. The authors provide a complete analysis of a broad range of client narratives, integrating theory, and the latest research to explore the effectiveness of various interventions. The book offers readers detailed recommendations, suggestions, and opinions as to how sport and physical activity opportunities can be tailored to provide the greatest mental health benefits. Below I’ve listed major benefits that physical activities have on mental health:
1. Boost Happy Chemicals
Exercise makes the body produce more of the feel-good hormones named endorphins. Endorphins are the chemicals that are produced when you are for instance laughing. They trigger a positive feeling while reducing your thought of pain. Ever heard of the “runner’s high” effect? – Endorphins are responsible for that. Studies have shown, that the more intense the exercises, the more endorphins are produced. So, if you want to boost your happy chemicals level, start your high-intensity-interval training right now!
2. Fight Depression:
“Exercise is an all-natural approach to fight depression,” says the Harvard Medical School in one of their health letters. Exercise can sometimes even be as useful and effective as antidepressants. Physical activity (such as sports, yoga, etc.) promotes the growth and connection of nerve cells in the mood-center of your brain – the so-called hippocampus. This ultimately helps reduce depression and enhances mental health.
3. Relieve Stress:
Various reasons can cause you to undergo stress: it can be a consequence of tension, a feeling of failure, nervousness, or hope deferred. When the body reacts to challenging situations, the outcome is stress. Exercise is a means of riffing oneself of stress, many studies have shown that as it makes the heart pump faster and enables you to shed off stress as much as possible.
Sylvia Kang, CEO of Mira says “Being into the medical profession, I think your brain is distracted from daily stresses when you are involved in some sort of physical activity including sports. Physical activities can help you fight your negative thoughts and reduce overthinking. The levels of stress hormones in your body can be easily reduced when you play sports or exercise and release endorphins. These are the natural mood lifters that can fight stress and depression and make you feel more relaxed and optimistic at the same time”
4. Reduce Anxiety:
Worrying can cause anxiety. There are a lot of people with one thing or the other they worry about, some are avoidable, others are not, but one thing that studies have shown to reduce anxiety is bodily exercise. The chemicals discharged from the body during a workout session is very effective when going through anxiety disorders. There’s scientific proof that even low-intensity sessions reduce anxiety.
5. Improve Self-Confidence
According to Scott Ferguson, Chief Editor of iOverGolf, “Physical activity can help you improve massively on the level of your self-confidence. You will notice that your physical fitness, strength, and stamina constantly improve, if you begin anew, you will see a lot of progress, especially in the first weeks, if you stick to your plan and exercise regularly when you realize that you physically improve you will also feel mentally stronger, more confident. The better you feel, the happier your mood will be. And if you are able to find a physical activity that you can do outside – like playing golf, soccer, rugby, rock climbing, hiking, etc. – then you will also get a boost in Vitamin D, reducing the likelihood of depression”
6. Prevents Cognitive Decline:
Physical activity does not only act as a method of prevention for cognitive decline, but it also reduces the danger of developing dementia. It aids in the recovery of brain cells that diseases such as Alzheimer’s tend to kill off. But even better: If you are regularly playing soccer, football, practicing yoga, or do any other physical activity, then your learning and memory capabilities will also develop. Even your ability to focus and concentrate will improve.