Whether it involves throwing, kicking, hitting or dodging a ball, there’s no doubt Americans love their sports.
An estimated 18 percent of people over age 15 participated in some form of sport or exercise between 2009 and 2015, and more than 60 percent of Americans describe themselves as sports fans. While these numbers are high, they leave plenty of room for people who don’t like or even hate sports. If sports are as exciting for you as nails on a chalkboard, you might want to give them a second chance.
While it’s not as easy today to get involved in sports with social distancing recommendations, you may be able to get involved in an individual sport of some kind, such as tennis, golf, cross country or tumbling. Sports can benefit a person’s health in a number of ways.
Here are some reasons to get out and play:
Improved physical health
It’s a no-brainer that participating in sports is good for your health. Playing a sport is a good way to get physical exercise, which can help fight obesity and lower your risk for several chronic conditions. But sports have even more physical health benefits. One study found that adolescents involved in sports were less likely to consume alcohol, while another found that people who played a sport in their youth were more likely to stay active as adults. Sports can lead to a lifetime of healthy choices.
Better cognitive function
Sports don’t just build your muscles — they can build your brain as well. Studies have found that kids who play sports have better cognitive function and memory. Incorporating physical games into classroom learning can even improve students’ achievement. The cognitive benefits don’t just apply to playing sports, though: Researchers found that even talking about sports can make you smarter. Playing a sport, talking about it, or just watching it can improve a person’s language skills.
Missing a field goal, striking out or hitting a ball right into the net doesn’t make most players feel great. But despite momentary defeats, sports help improve a person’s self-esteem. People who participate in sports can have higher self-confidence and a more positive body image.
Lower risk of depression
Along with higher self-esteem and better body image, sports can also lower a person’s risk of depression. Just getting exercise can provide these benefits, but sports can give an extra boost. A study found that athletes were less likely to have depression than non-athletes, and those who played a team sport had even lower levels of depression.
“The physical activity involved in playing a sport can help improve your mood, whether you win or lose,” says Dan Bushnell, administrator at Gramercy Court Assisted Living. “Regardless of your skill level, you can learn a new sport and enjoy the mental health benefits.”
There are many different sports out there. Find an activity that matches your abilities and that you can enjoy, while still following social distancing guidelines. Your health will be the real winner.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.