June 21

Physical activity and mental health benefits of sport

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If practised regularly and in moderation, sports help maintain optimum physical condition, strengthen muscles, and prevent cardiovascular disease and obesity. But it doesn’t stop there! It’s also good for your mind. So here are the benefits of sport for your mental health.

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Here’s the best sport for mental health, according to a study

While sport has undeniable physical benefits, it can also be an antidepressant. Here’s the one identified as the most beneficial for mental health.

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Experts recommend regular physical exercise to prevent chronic pathologies and cardiovascular disease or, quite simply, to keep fit. Each sport has its own benefits. Australian researchers have studied the different psychological and cognitive effects of several sporting activities and have revealed which activity is most beneficial for mental health.

 

The researchers conducted several studies involving almost 1,300 participants of various ages to examine their health data and sporting habits. Many of them suffered from chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, or heart failure, and all practised a variety of sports, from walking to martial arts, weight training, and, of course, dance. By comparing these data, the researchers were able to assess the effects of these different physical activities on mental health.

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And it was a dance that “regardless of the type, was as effective as, or even more effective than, other types of physical activity in improving a series of psychological and cognitive outcomes”, says the press release.

 

According to the study’s lead author, dance “improves several psychological and cognitive outcomes, including emotional well-being, depression, motivation, social cognition and certain aspects of memory”. Finally, she concludes by adding, “Learning dance sequences can stimulate cognition, dancing as a couple or in a group can encourage social interaction, and the artistic aspect can improve psychological well-being”.

 

Combating anxiety and stress

When faced with an alarming situation, the body sends signals to the brain to prepare either to face it or to flee. Fear, which is an adaptation to danger, generates stress. When intense stress triggers a significant production of cortisol, adrenalin and noradrenalin, this has negative repercussions on mental health and can trigger unpleasant emotions and even anxiety disorders.

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We need to break this downward spiral and find the right way to maintain a healthy, balanced mind to overcome all this.

The benefits of sport for mental health include combating anxiety and stress and preventing anxiety attacks and depression. Intense sporting activity gives your body a good dose of natural antidepressants and anxiolytics. As a result, you’ll feel a significant reduction in anxiety through the release and secretion of endorphins.

 

Good to know: Stress wreaks havoc on young people, affecting their studies and personal lives.

 

Does sport have other effects on mental well-being?

The benefits of sport for mental health don’t stop at the secretion of endorphins and the fight against stress and anxiety. Practising sports helps stimulate cognitive functions, develop self-confidence, and promote better quality sleep, all contributing to more significant mental well-being.

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Improving cognitive and intellectual capacities and reducing mental disorders

Sport improves the vascularisation of the brain and the creation of nerve connections. It also keeps neurons healthy. Sport has also been shown to facilitate decision-making and problem-solving. As well as boosting your morale, sport also helps to develop your intellectual and mental capacities.

 

Practising a sporting activity provides better brain oxygenation, promotes good blood circulation, and stimulates cerebral activity.

It also helps combat cognitive ageing and increases one’s powers of concentration, memorisation, and reflection. The benefits of sport for mental health can be counted by the dozen!

 

What types of sports are best?

Sports clubs, sports associations, forests, parks, etc. Many sporting disciplines are adapted to your physical condition, age and lifestyle. You’re bound to find one that suits you. The ideal thing is to make the right choice to reap the full benefits of sport for your mental and physical health.

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Endurance sports

Running, swimming, and cycling release more endorphins, so you’re guaranteed to feel good and relaxed after exercise.

 

Team sports

Team sports such as rugby, football and handball help to improve your mental health and prevent anxiety disorders.

 

Water sports

Water has many benefits for your mental and physical health. Taking part in water sports helps to relax your muscles and relieve tension.

 

Improved sleep

Athletes’ sleep improves significantly. Sport reduces stress levels, increases relaxation, and regulates sleep cycles, making it ideal for anyone suffering from sleep disorders.

 


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