Updated: Feb 28
Sport isn’t just for ‘sporty’ people, sport is for everyone no matter your gender, age or ability. We all know exercise is important but the idea can seem unexciting - and that’s where sports come in. There’s a sport to suit everyone, and the main aim is to have fun!
Mental benefits of sport & exercise
Reduced anxiety and happier moods -When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins (‘feel good’ hormones), which can calm anxiety and lift your mood.
Reduced feelings of stress - Your body is better able to control cortisol levels (stress hormone) when you’re physically active.
Clearer thinking - Some people find exercise helps to break up racing thoughts. As your body tires so does your mind, leaving you calmer and able to think more clearly.
Increased self-esteem - When you start to see your fitness levels increase and your body improve, it can give your self-esteem a big boost. The sense of achievement you get from learning new skills and achieving your goals can also help you feel better about yourself and lift your mood. Improved self-esteem also has a protective effect that increases life satisfaction and can make you more resilient to feeling stressed.
Reduced risk of depression- If you're more active there's good evidence to suggest that at most ages, for both men and women, there's a trend towards lower rates of depression.
Physical benefits of sport & exercise
Reduced risk of some diseases -Reduce your risk of stroke or heart disease by 10%, &type 2 diabetes by 30–40%.
Healthier organs -When you're active your body is working more, which is good for your organs. For example, a stronger heart will help you have lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
Healthier bones -Weight-bearing exercises will strengthen your bones and build your muscle, which can reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis.
Healthier weight -Becoming more active can help you reduce body fat as your stamina and fitness levels improve.
More energy -As your body adapts to increased activity levels you get a natural energy boost. Researchers say that even low intensity levels of activity can be beneficial if you usually feel very fatigued.
Improved sleep -Many people find they are able to sleep better at night after being more active during the day.
To stay healthy, adults should try to be active every day, aiming for at least 150 minutes of varied physical activity over a week.
Social & emotional benefits of sport & exercise
Making friends and connecting with people -Being around people is good for our mental health and social networks. You may find that the social benefits are just as important as the physical ones.
Having fun -Lots of us enjoy being active because it's fun. Researchers have shown that there's a link between the things we enjoy doing and improvements in our wellbeing overall. If you enjoy an activity you're also more likely to keep doing it.
Challenging stigma and discrimination -Some people find that joining a sport programme helps reduce the stigma attached to their mental health problem. Getting involved in local projects with other people who share a common interest can be a great way to break down barriers and challenge discrimination.
Find a sport you enjoy doing and you'll look forward to it
Which sport to choose?
Having a clear idea about what you want to achieve will help you to make a decision about which activity to choose. Think about which of these factors are most important for you:
meeting new people and making friends
learning a new skill
managing your weight
making your lifestyle more active or improving your physical fitness
giving your mental health a boost
playing a team sport or exercising on your own
being in an outdoor or indoor space
ease of access – for example if you have limited physical mobility, or can't afford certain classes or equipment
doing something you enjoy
A sport for everyone…
We’re not all born to be footballers or tennis superstars. If you‘re struggling to find a sport that appeals, take a look at some of these sports that are more ‘off the grid’, or go online and see what’s available in your area.
Stand up paddle boarding
Reasons people don’t engage in exercise:
Lack of motivation
Lack of money
Lack of time
Lack of confidence
No facilities available
Finding the right sport for you is key to motivation. Look for activities to fit in with your schedule - a class near your workplace or a gym with good transport connections. If your budget is an issue, look for free community groups like parkrun, or gather some friends for your own game of rounders or five a side.
Remember, even sports stars were new to their sport once - have a go, see if you like it, and try something else if not!
“We do not stop exercising because we grow old, we grow old because we stop exercising.” - Dr Kenneth Cooper
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