Mental Health and Sports

According to a 2015 study published by NPR, only 25% of adults over 30 play sports although 73% of them played when they were younger.  The top sports played by adults are “golf, basketball, baseball/softball, soccer, and running or track.”  I am a runner although, I must admit, when I get busy I slack off.  Men are more than twice as likely to play sports than women although that gender gap does not exist among the youth.  By the time adults reach 50, only 20% play sports.  Lower income are half as likely to play as upper income.

Half of the adults that play sports say they do it for their health.  I know that is my reason.  A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity discovered the greatest benefits to physical activity kick in when moderate activity is done for 150 minutes a week or intense activity is done for 75 minutes a week.  That comes out to 30 minutes, five days a week for those in the moderate activity category like me. 

“This study concluded that there were many different psychological and social health benefits reported, with the most common being improved self-esteem and improved social interaction/integration, followed by fewer depressive symptoms.”  They found “sport represents a chosen leisure-time activity and aims for recreation, enjoyment and social interaction which promotes well-being. Furthermore, these improved levels of well-being are not associated with physical activity that implies compulsion which to an extent, housework and active transport do…  They found significant benefits of participation on reduced psychological distress for all types of activity with participants only needing a minimum of 20 per week to have significant differences in mental health measures”

Playing sports or exercising with friends is the best way to stay motivated.  “There is consistent evidence that club-based and team-based sport participation, when compared to other individual forms of physical activity, is associated with better psychological and social health outcomes.”  There is a caution here for those trying to live a spiritual lifestyle.  Many people in sports clubs are secular and self-absorbed.  It is a great place to witness for God.  However those that are weak in their faith can be lead down a path of materialism that will damage the spiritual life.  The ideal situation is to find a spiritual group of friends to play sports.  This will provide physical, psychological and spiritual benefits.



NPR. Sports & health in America.  Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (June, 2015)

Eime, R.M., Young, J.A., Harvey, J.T. et al. A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for adults: informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 10, 135 (2013).

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