There are more benefits of playing sports than earning letters for your letterman jacket. Being on a team and doing consistent exercise can change your internal brain chemistry.
People who play sports and exercise in groups regularly have better mental health than those that don’t, and you can get the details on that below.
1. It Creates a Sense of Community
A big part of mental health, especially in our teen and college years, is feeling like we belong. Finding a community that we identify with or a group where we feel like we have value helps stave off depression and loneliness.
People who play sports growing up have a community-based mindset. Not only do they have proof that they serve as a valuable asset in a group, but they can recognize potential groups more quickly.
If a study group needs to be formed, someone who played sports (or still does) will feel more at home in the group and more confident.
This sense of community can also lead to less destructive behavior. When people feel like they’re a part of a community, they’re less likely to harm it.
2. It Makes You Smarter
There are multiple levels to the way exercise and teamwork increase brain function, but we’ll keep it simple. A study on Minnesota high school athletes showed a higher GPA compared to non-athlete students.
Why? Many sports teams have GPA and grade requirements to getting playing time. Being part of a team and wanting to play may give students an extra reason to care about their grades.
Along with that, they attend more school in general. Student-athletes miss less school than their non-athletic peers.
On the biological side of things, the human brain thrives on physical activity. When someone does sports, they have higher endorphin levels and better sleep.
Both of those things lead to clearer thoughts, quicker brain function, and even have anti-brain aging benefits.
If you feel like your brain is cloudy or you can’t care about your work or classes, look into playing sports.
Most of the time all it takes is finding a league and getting sports physicals.
3. It Helps You Sleep
Twenty-seven percent of Americans struggle to get the amount of sleep recommended per night. When you don’t get enough sleep, things go downhill fast.
Think of sleep like your body’s recovery time. The less sleep you get, the longer things stay out of repair and don’t work at peak function.
The physical exhaustion of playing sports aids in sleep, but the endorphins also curb anxiety. If you’re someone that lays in bed worrying for hours, try intense physical exercise.
Don’t do it less than two hours before bed, though, because your body won’t have had time to calm all the way down.
4. It Boosts Confidence
When you feel like part of a team, you get good sleep, and you have clearer brain function, it leads to higher self-confidence. And we don’t mean in the bragging about yourself kind of way.
We mean the kind of self-confidence that makes you feel like a valuable member of society. When you feel like you matter, you’re less likely to get depressed or develop other mental health disorders.
You also function better with other people, since you see their value as much as you see your own. People with social anxiety should look into sports not only for the controlled social environment, but to build their sense of confidence.
That’s how it affects your life off the field and court. When you feel like you’re good at something and you prove it to yourself and your team over and over, that’s a boost in and of itself.
5. It Increases Organizational Skills
People who play sports are used to keeping a lot of factors in their minds. They need to think about where the ball is, what to do next, how to do it, and so on.
This is mental practice for complex organization situations. Playing sports builds time management skills and teaches children how to prioritize.
Maybe the way sports teaches athletes to focus and not put too much pressure on themselves is part of the academic success of athletes we looked at above.
6. It Helps With Body Image
People suffer from unhappiness with their bodies their whole lives. But athletes suffer a little bit less. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing about their bodies they want to change, but sports can give their shape a sense of purpose.
When someone’s a professional or high-level swimmer, they develop large shoulder muscles. While some people wouldn’t see those muscles as attractive, they know it makes them a better athlete.
Playing sports also helps you stay in shape, so there’s less about your body not to like in the first place.
7. It Makes You Happier
To quote the fabulous and famous Elle Woods, “Endorphins make you happy, and happy people don’t kill their husbands, they just don’t!”
Along with knowing that Chutney was lying, Elle was right about endorphins. People that exercise and play sports are happier than their peers.
Sports and exercise give you a constructive way to work out frustration and the physical movement releases dopamine into your brain.
8. It Reduces Depression
Along with the last fact, exercising and playing sports can stave off long-term depression. In the brain, depression shows up as a deficit of happy-making brain chemicals.
Those chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, are released during sports play and exercise. By keeping your body active and playing sports, you’re setting your brain up for success.
The Benefits of Playing Sports
People who exercise and play sports are happier and more productive than people that don’t. Their brains are clearer, their friend circles are bigger, and their BMI’s are smaller.
If you played sports growing up, think about how the benefits of playing sports changed your life. Was it something on this list or something we missed entirely?
Let us know in the comments, then share this with your favorite (old or current) teammate.
Not quite ready to join a league? Get more motivation here.