As we watch the summer Olympics this week, most of the world stands amazed at the physical and mental capabilities of athletes across the world – athletes who have exercised, trained, and practiced nearly their entire lives for the opportunity to compete in the Olympics.
Many of these same athletes began most of their athletic careers in a team environment. Whether they played for their high-school, college/university, or special club, most, if not all, grew alongside many other athletes during their career. Though sports and athletics are not the only, nor most important, extra-curricular activities for youth growing up, they do offer a variety of physical and mental benefits – no matter what sport the child participates in.
Playing sports can help individuals stay active and exercise throughout their childhood and adult years. For children, practices can help build an exercise routine that lasts into adult-hood, while adult sports clubs and leagues can help keep adults motivated to play through competition and team-dependency.
Sports also have a variety of mental health benefits, as well. According to an article from the Women’s and Children’s Hospital of the University of Missouri Health Care, “team sports are good for learning accountability, dedication, and leadership, among many other traits.” Working with other individuals to achieve a common goal can help players utilize each other’s strengths and learn each other’s weaknesses.
In addition, an article from HealthLine discusses the following ways that sports can positively impact your mental health:
- “Sports Improve Your Mood” – Working out releases endorphins that can improve your mood.
- “Sports Improve Your Concentration” – By thinking and acting in the moment, your concentration improves dramatically.
- “Sports Reduce Stress and Depression” – “Exercise reduces the levels of stress hormones in your body.”
- “Sports Improve Sleep Habits” – By exercising, you leave your body tired at the end of the day, helping you to sleep sooner and better.
- “Sports Help You Maintain a Healthy Weight” – Staying active and burning calories can help you from gaining unhealthy weight.
- “Sports Boost Your Self-Confidence” – Practice makes perfect. The more you play a sport, the better at it you will become, ultimately improving your self-confidence.
- “Sports Have Been Linked to Leadership Traits” – Leadership can be displayed through having a positive attitude, encouraging your team, and making and executing plans.
- “Benefits for Young Children” – By improving mental and physical health, academic achievement increases as well as healthy eating and exercise.
Sports can help keep your mind sharp and your body active – two things that can potentially help you live a longer, healthier life. According to an article on SportandDev.org, “The positive, direct effects of engaging in regular physical activity are particularly apparent in the prevention of several chronic diseases, including: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression and osteoporosis.” The more active you are, the stronger your body is, and in return – your immune system.
All Olympic athletes started somewhere. They started with drills, practices, games, meets, matches, etc. They spent countless hours training and improving their strength, concentration, balance, flexibility, dedication, and endurance. They spent time failing, and encouraging their teammates when they would fail. They started from the bottom and trained to become where they are today.
Don’t be mistaken – playing a sport is not about making it to the Olympics. I played basketball and volleyball in high-school because I enjoyed it. You do not need to play a sport in order to live an active and healthy lifestyle, but sports do offer great benefits, especially in a child’s development. Recreational sports such as Frisbee, basketball, volleyball, swimming, etc. can help motivate adults to stay active, while meeting new people, but visiting the gym 3-4 times week, going on a run outside, or taking a walk every evening are other ways to exercise, as well.
Whether you’re enjoying sports as an adult or you’re introducing your child to sports, there are social, mental, and physical benefits to playing a sport at any age. The YMCA offers adult sports leagues and games including volleyball, basketball, badminton, and more, in addition to a variety of sports camps and leagues for youth. The East Shore YMCA is currently accepting registrations for their fall Adult Volleyball League (for any age and ability!) and would love for you to join!
For more information on what sports your YMCA offers, visit the links below.
West Shore YMCA
East Shore YMCA
Northern Dauphin County YMCA
Camp Curtin YMCA
–Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator