Brain Over Body – The Psychological Benefits of Playing Sports

Whether we are worried about gaining weight, or want to spend a few extra years with our kids, we are all aware that we need to exercise. Yes, playing sports and exercising will lead to a fit body (when combined with good nutrition), and provides an exciting way to condition the body. However, the benefits of athletics extends far beyond having toned calves and a healthy beating heart. Exercise and recreation actually has a significant effect on the cognitive function of the brain. Read on to learn about the interesting benefits that sports has on your brain.

One of the most obvious and positive benefits of playing a team sport is the development of a teamwork mentality. Many studies have shown that youth who participate in a team sport are more likely to have success in the areas of work and social status later in life. The experience of working with others to achieve a common goal is one that tends to stick, due to the emotional and physical combination.

Mood Improvement
Studies have shown that mood enhancing endorphins are released during and after physical exercise. These feel good and pain relieving hormones serve to improve an athlete’s outlook on many facets of life and give some athletes a sense of euphoria during intense physical exertions like running or rowing. There is also evidence that serotonin levels also get a boost through physical activity. Although you might go to the gym begrudgingly, your mood can quickly change once those endorphins are released.

Stress Relief
Almost 45 percent of Americans exercise to relive stress, according to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association. An athlete who participates in a sport tends to burn off the excess adrenaline that can lead to anxiety and poor sleep patterns. Whether you have a busy schedule, a stressful job, or a bunch of crazy kids running around, participating in sports and exercise can help you burn off the extra stress so that it doesn’t get bottled up inside.

Improved Circulation
Improved blood flow benefits every organ in the body, including the brain. The oxygen transported to the brain, via proper blood circulation, fuels the brain and allows for improved cognitive function. Whether your exercise takes you outside for fresh air, or you get the blood flowing with some cardio, the best way to improve circulation is through physical activity. When your brain starts to feel fuzzy and fried in the middle of the day, you can sharpen your focus with some good old fashioned exercise.

Increased Self Esteem
A study, conducted by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, found that those who participated in sports took pride in achieving a goal and their physical abilities. Whether you are part of a team, finally run a marathon, or lose a few extra pounds, working toward and achieving goals is a huge contributor to higher self-esteem. Even if you set small fitness goals, you’ll have the satisfaction of having more control over your body, and achieving your goals. This is another aspect of sports-related social interaction that pays dividends all through a person’s life.

The evidence is clear that sports activities have a positive effect on a most athlete’s mental attitude and self-awareness. A “sport” doesn’t have to be full contact like football or rugby to be beneficial to your brain and body. Sports like golf, tennis and running are often thought of as individual sports, but each of these activity provide opportunities for physical activity and setting personal goals. No matter how you exercise, just remember that not only will you enjoy the benefits of a healthy body, but your brain will thank you later! The information for this article was provided by the professionals at Ohio University who offer a coaching masters degree for those pursuing a career in athletics.

the author

Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She also enjoys being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise as well as researching new topics to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure.

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