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The Benefits of Sport

Too many young people spend vast amounts of their time mesmerised by social media, gaming devices and television programmes. However, have they considered the impacts of social media on their mental health? Perhaps they should invest their time in sport. After all, it has extraordinary benefits for our wellbeing, such as improved confidence and stress relief. In short, exercise is a great opportunity to stay content and healthy. It has been proven to release endorphins, which help reduce stress and depression. If more people joined a sports club or tried something new, would the rate of depression and obesity decrease? Possibly, and this would certainly put less strain on an over-worked NHS and, therefore, benefit everyone.

It has been proven that regular physical activity lasting 45 minutes three to five times a week can reduce poor mental health.  A study was carried out where 1.2 million people reported their activity levels for a month and rated their mental wellbeing. It was discovered that people who exercised regularly had 1.5 fewer “bad days” a month, compared to non-exercisers. Notably, team sports, cycling and aerobics had the greatest positive impact. This could be due to being part of a sporting community and feeling as though you are a key part of the team. As a keen athlete myself, I feel that I experience a great feeling of joy after competing with my team (even if we do not win every game). A whole range of activities were found to improve mental health and interestingly, neither age nor gender appeared to matter. Furthermore, previous research into the effects of exercise on mental health shows that a lack of activity could contribute to poor mental health, as well as being a symptom of it.

Furthermore, exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes and diabetes. Adults taking part in the study said they experienced on average 3.4 days of poor mental health each month. For those who were physically active, this reduced to only two days. The number of times people exercised was a significant factor in the study: it concluded that being active for 30 to 60 minutes every second day was the ultimate routine. Although, there is a limit to exercise, as too much physical activity (more than 23 times a month or exercising for longer than 90 minutes) is associated with worse mental health.  A scientist stated: “the positive impact of team sports suggested that social sports activities could reduce isolation and be good for resilience, while also reducing depression”.

Sporting activities also have a range of social benefits; for instance, meeting people and making new friends. Thus, this broadens friendship circles and builds close bonds. However, social media can have the opposite impact.

Moreover, being a member of a sports club and regularly participating in sport will also develop personal qualities, including: co-operation and trusting your team mates; a sense of pride and achievement when winning competitions; physical challenges as you test yourself against the environment of your best performances and aesthetic appreciation (recognising quality of movement in a performance). Sport will also improve co-ordination, speed, agility, power, strength, reaction times and flexibility. It will urge people to abandon their screens and go for walks, meet up with friends and provide new social opportunities.

Therefore, I strongly believe everyone should regularly participate in a sport they enjoy. No matter their skill level, there must be a sport suited to everyone: from a gentle amble to international level competition, everyone is capable of exercising. Also, depending on the sport, the cost is relatively low, so everyone is able to participate and improve their mental and physical health.

By Ruth Roper, Year 9