The importance of sport for mental health

For many, the has had a devastating effect on mental health. For others, it’s put mental wellbeing into sharper focus, a reminder that it’s just as important as physical health. Sport is one of the best ways to take care of your mental health and, no matter where you live, there are usually ample opportunities nearby.

Physical and social benefits

Mental and physical health shouldn’t be viewed as separate areas. The two are linked, and the physical benefits of sport translate into improved mental health. Boosting cardiovascular function, losing weight, and building endurance are just some of the physical benefits that aid the mind. The beauty of sport is that it doesn’t always feel like exercise. Not everybody wants to spend hours toiling in the gym, but playing a sport with friends is always a pleasure.

Isolation and loneliness, especially during the coronavirus era, are major causes of poor mental health. Taking up a team sport can help. It puts you in touch with like-minded individuals in your area, giving you a routine and a reason to get out of the house. A sport like football can even become a lifelong interest. You might begin to support a team, watch their matches, and even indulge in some sports as your interest turns into a passion.

Hormone levels and sleep

At its most basic, sport affects the chemicals that are active in the body. Partaking in physical activity is proven to reduce the levels of stress hormones, which is why those suffering from anxiety and depression often find relief in sport. Moreover, sport releases endorphins. These hormones have a known “feel good” effect, and they will leave you feeling invigorated, calm, and generally “better” than before you took to the field.

Equally important is how sport can help you get to sleep. A tiring game of something like soccer, tennis, or basketball leaves you exhausted. That makes it far easier to fall asleep at the end of the day. Poor sleep (or lack of sleep more generally) is linked to depression and anxiety, so getting at least eight hours every night is vitally important.

Lack of sleep can often be a vicious circle. The more anxious you feel, the harder it is to get to sleep, and the cumulative effect equates to worse anxiety. By playing a sport in the afternoon or early evening, you’re setting yourself up to go to bed. You’ll find that you can drift off much easier with a clear head and a tired body. That means, of course, that you’ll wake up the next day feeling refreshed.

The benefits of sport extend well beyond the field. It can help you sleep, improve your long-term fitness and perhaps provide you with a lifelong passion. with many restrictions in place, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find sporting opportunities in your area. Outdoor pursuits are widely regarded as safe, so there’s nothing stopping you from trying out something new.