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Mental Health & Exercise/Sport

Have you ever began the day feeling exhausted, unmotivated, and negative, just to find yourself full of energy, determined, and positive just a few hours later? This is because energy and mood are fluid. No matter what state we are in, we can almost always find a way out of it. A lot of times, it’s a matter of finding out how.

For many people, the answer is exercise. The link between exercise and mood has been at the top of the research list for almost 100 years now, and the findings have been as positive as expected.

It has been found that exercise not only has been consistently more effective than antidepressants/anti-anxiety medications, but it will also last much longer if it becomes habitual. Here’s how:

-when we exercise, we release serotonin, which helps regulate mood and mental health
-we also release dopamine, norepinephrine, and dopamine - all considered “happy chemicals”
-levels of cortisol (stress hormone) are lowered
-exercise improves sleep, which is closely associated with mood and mental health
-it provides a positive distraction from other stressors in our life

Exercise through sport in teens has also been found to reap these same kinds of benefits. Additionally, teenagers who participate in sports tend to develop more self esteem, better teamwork skills, have less overall stress, and benefit from having a strong support group. There is a also a link between substance abuse in teens and sport: teenagers who are involved in sports or on a team are much less likely to participate in substance abuse.

The downside is that athletes can sometimes feel pressure to overachieve in sports, which can then result in both mental and physical burnout. The first step to tackling this issue is being aware that it exists. Sports psychologists and other mental health professionals can make a huge difference in your mental health and performance.

All in all, just as physical inactivity is associated with depression and other mental health disorders, physical activity is associated with improved mental health. The body is nothing without the mind. Get moving today!

Stephanie Spoto, CSCS

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