How Sports Improve Physical and Emotional Health

Updated on April 8, 2021
How Sports Improve Physical and Emotional Health

Exercise is proven to help your body and mind. 

Not only does it improve your overall physical fitness, but a plethora of other things happen inside your body and brain. For one, learning new complex motor functions builds new neural pathways in the brain. For older individuals, sports or complex exercises can help to stave off dementia and age=related memory loss. 

For those that are younger—this actually applies to all age groups—exercise improves your overall sense of wellbeing. This doesn’t just mean you have more energy because you’re more. It also includes better mental and emotional health through stress relief.

Now one of the biggest debates is whether team sports are better for you than exercising alone. 

One study shows that students who performed physical activity in either a team sport or in fitness groups have better mental health than students who exercise but do it alone. 

According to BeyondBlue.Org.Au, there are substantial benefits to choosing team sports such as basketball:

  • Team sports teach you how to manage setbacks.
  • Team sports teach you about leadership.
  • Team sports teach you the value of teamwork.
  • Team sports force you to socialize. 
  • Sports help you sleep better.
  • Sports are a proven stress-reliever

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“Sports participation has been found to be associated with reduced levels of depression and stress among adolescents. Similarly, young people (aged 17–37 years) who participated in team sports (UK university sports people) reported higher levels of happiness than those who played individual sport.” —BMC Public Health

Furthermore, according to PubMed, team sports athletes may be less likely to suffer from anxiety or depression than individual sport athletes.

Key takeaways from this study are:

  • Individual sport athletes are more likely to report anxiety and depression than team sport athletes.
  • Reasons for playing sports vary between individual sport athletes and team sport athletes, wherein individual sport athletes play for goal-oriented reasons and team sport athletes play for fun.
  • The mental health benefits of participation in organized sports may vary between individual sport athletes and those playing team sports.
How Sports Improve Physical and Emotional Health

It showed that not only are team sports associated with reduced instances of anxiety and depression, but also reduce the risk of illicit drug use, and use of tobacco products. Hadi Kajbafnezhad found a significant difference between team sports and individual sports in terms of psychological skills and motivation of athletic success. Playing on a team both encourages fitness and allows young people to develop important mental and social skills.

Other studies have proven that undergraduates that play team sports tend to have a higher emotional intelligence than non-team-sport athletes and students in general who don’t play sports.

Exercise’s Impact on the Brain

The impact of sports is not just abstract occurrences dealing with stress and anxiety. There are physiological factors as well. Exercise gets your blood pumping. It also gets you breathing heavier. These two facts mean that you get more oxygen-rich blood circulating throughout your body, bringing oxygen and nutrients to every cell. Your brain is not left out of this equation. In short, exercise supplies your brain with higher oxygen levels and proteins that nourish brain cells to promote healthier neurons and promote the growth of new neurons—the building blocks of your brain.

It also triggers the brain to release hormones that not only promote neuroplasticity and brain cell growth, but also physically reduce stress. A prime example of this is the ‘runner’s high.’ You get a sense of improved well being, almost like an antidepressant, due to a physiological response to exercise within your brain. 

Of course the standard physical results of regular exercise shouldn’t be forgotten either. Constant muscle use and impacts builds stronger bones and muscles. This helps to stave off atrophy as we age. Improved energy levels are another bonus. Feeling recharged after a workout helps people get through the drudgery of a day in the office.

In addition to increased demand on the muscular and skeletal systems, carbon dioxide and metabolite removal increase as well. Handfuls of stimuli—thermal, mechanical, and chemical—impact out metabolic state, hence, the term doing cardio. As ventilatory and cardiovascular function improves to meet the needs of the demands you put on them through exercise, overall improved health tends to be the outcome. 

Just don’t overdo it. Over-exercising is a good thing and turns it into a bad thing, as you are simply over-stressing your body.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.