Feature article about mental health

How physical activity can improve mental health in you

Does involvement in sports or physical activity have the power to improve a teen’s mental health? Much of the time, parents think signing their children up for organized sports or encouraging physical activity is a good way for the child to release excess energy and to socialize, but the benefits are, in fact, much greater.

The involvement in extracurricular activities, such as sports, can be beneficial for a child or teen’s mental and physical health. Organized sports are not the only place you can get the mental health benefits. Walks, runs, cycling, school sports are all good ways to get out in the fresh air without spending any money. In a 2018 article by Newport Academy, the Journal of Adolescent Health stated that, “playing school sports during adolescent years is significantly linked to lower depression symptoms, lower perceived stress, and better self-rated mental health in young adulthood.” Not only does physical activity boost one’s physical well-being, but it can also improve you mentally by improving sleep, boosting mood and increasing self-confidence.

Mental health is often neglected by many. Putting others before oneself is a common trait of many people and can be very detrimental to mental health. When caring for mental health is encouraged onto others, the encourager often points out that having mental health days can be beneficial which can be correct, but the benefit of exercising frequently is much greater. Creating life-long positive habits around exercise is a great way to have long lasting effects. Former Port Coquitlam student athlete Austin Croft, 23, a graduate from Archbishopship Carney Secondary School had some insight on his experience using sports as a healthy outlet and coping mechanism. Croft related how he originally began using sports and exercising as a coping mechanism as his family struggled through divorce and the subsequent failing health and death of his father as a young teen. He again turned to activity as a young adult during the past year, while coping with the constraints of the pandemic and losing his access to his soccer and hockey teams along with the friends and socialization. “I think being blessed enough to use sports as a coping mechanism has really helped me. By even just going on a run and seeing real people has helped me reduce my stress intake.” He also elaborated on the subject by explaining that “the more I would exercise, the more I would seek new strategies and find what works best for me; now that I’m an adult I am able to use the things I learnt as a tool to my benefit.” said Croft.

Another benefit of sports and exercise is meeting new people you can’t meet a social opportunity.. Finding like-minded people to engage with while enjoying a favourite physical activity can create life-long friendships that can last far beyond the activity. Mental Health Foundation of the UK says on their website that “Friendship is a crucial element in protecting our mental health.” “Our friends can keep us grounded and can help us get things in perspective. It is worth putting effort into maintaining our friendships and making new friends.”

Sports and physical activity can play a large role in making friendships and maintaining mental health. During this last year with the global pandemic, mental health has become a major issue with many students and young people around the world. Hopefully many have found the connection between physical activity and maintaining mental health to assist them in emerging from this as a stronger individual.







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