by K.J. Howe
Happy 2020! Welcome to a new decade, which is always a sensational time for new pursuits and passions. Physical exercise is good for our bodies, but it’s also a mega-boost for our minds. Do you have a favourite sport to keep you inspired over the long winter months? If not, perhaps these seven mental health benefits might just inspire you to dust off your old racquet, learn a new sport, or find an activity that suits you best.
1) Sports Lift Our Spirits
Physical activity triggers chemicals in your brain that makes you feel happier and relaxed. And if you enjoy team sports, they can help you unwind while allowing you to engage in a satisfying challenge while enjoying social time with your teammates.
2) Sports Give Us Better Focus
Your critical thinking and ability to learn can be enhanced via sports, and doing a mix of strength activities as well as aerobic ones can be especially helpful. And you don’t have to spend the entire day sweating up a storm to see the benefits. Just aim to exercise three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes. You’ll return to work ready to concentrate on your to-do list.
3) Sports Lesson Stress and Depression
Physical activity is the best distraction from negative thoughts and daily stressors, and it also helps reduce the level of stress hormones in your body. As an added bonus, it stimulates endorphins, natural mood enhancers, that reduce anxiety and depression. Your mood is almost always uplifted after playing a few rounds of your favourite game.
4) Sports Improve Sleep Habits
Better quality sleep is the elixir that many people crave–and exercise can not only help you fall asleep faster, it can deepen your sleep. Just one caution: don’t play that basketball game too late in the day, as you may be too fired up to sleep. Try to have three hours after your sport before hitting the hay.
5) Sports Can Keep You Trim
Burning calories while curling or running a marathon can be a surefire way to work off those extra pounds from all those holiday feasts. And building muscle means that your body will be more efficient at burning fat.
6) Sports Enhance Your Confidence
Working on your strength, skills, and stamina in your sport-of-choice can boost your confidence and self-esteem. You’ll head back to the office eager to tackle those challenging tasks you’ve been putting off.
7) Sports Creates Leaders
Team sports are especially helpful in building leadership traits. If you train, win, lose, and suffer with others, you’re more likely to adopt a cooperative mindset in the workplace and at social events. This effort builds strong leadership qualities that can help you climb that corporate ladder.
And don’t forget the fun factor–playing sports with a good attitude can be so engaging that you forget everything else, leaving no time to worry! Tennis is my sport of choice these days, although I’m also an avid swimmer and cyclist. In order to learn some new skills to exercise my brain I am also taking on the challenge of curling this year. Hurry hard! I hope I’ve motivated you to grab your loved ones and sign up for a sport today. Indoor, outdoor, just have fun and soak in those physical and mental benefits!
What is your sport of choice and why?
Honestly? I was the bookworm kid who loathed gym. Loathed with a capital L. But I started running after college to get in shape to qualify for the DEA (which, when they finally offered, I didn’t take, but that’s another long story of regret). I even ran a marathon once, just to see if I could, then immediately went back to my usual 2 miles a day. Right now I’m on the bench due to a muscle in my hip and not at all happy about it. But love it? Nah, I’d never say that.
Great blog, Kim! As for my favorite sport – it's swimming. When I was a child I saw all the old Esther Williams movies – which really impressed me (I wanted to "be her"). Now, IF the weather is at all decent, I swim laps every single day. Granted, it is a "solitary" sport – but I think it's great exercise!
I love tennis. However the old knees… Swimming is much better for my joints, so it’s my go to. My fitness club has a Masters program where you can train and compete in your age class. I have a ways to go.
I want to hear about why you turned down the DEA, Lisa. I'll bet that's a heck of a story. And I loved jogging/running years ago, and still miss it. Very glad you have your 2 miles a day!
I love swimming, too, Karna. And besides being a great exercise, I love being so glistening clean afterwards! 🙂
I have fond memories of tennis, Chris! And I miss running, too. I'll join you in the pool anytime! 🙂
Sports are so important, Kim. I love your list of reasons! I've been a runner and a tennis player, but now because of various deteriorating body parts I focus on swimming and hiking and snowshoeing in the forest, and I'm fortunate to love both!