Teen sports have a tremendous positive impact on overall well-being. They not only help reduce stress levels but also provide avenues for bonding, collaboration, and physical and mental health benefits through exercise. Engaging in sports as a teenager can boost self-esteem, foster teamwork skills, and cultivate a close-knit community of peers and supportive adults.
10 Proven Mental Benefits of Sports for Teens
For over a century, scientists have been studying the relationship between exercise and mood, leading to an extensive body of research supporting the positive connection between physical activity and improved mental health. Here are ten scientifically validated mental benefits of sports:
Engaging in physical exercises, such as team sports, not only helps protect teens from depression but also decreases symptoms of anxiety. A study conducted among college students found that physically active individuals reported higher levels of excitement and enthusiasm compared to those who were less active. In another study, researchers discovered that regular vigorous exercise reduced the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder by 25% over a five-year period.
Long-Term Mental Benefits of Teen Sports
Aside from the immediate benefits, playing team sports in high school has been found to predict better mental health in the long run. A 2019 study involving nearly 10,000 participants, half of whom had experienced childhood trauma, revealed that individuals who participated in team sports during adolescence had a significantly lower chance of being diagnosed with depression or anxiety later in life.
- Exercise influences the levels of serotonin, a chemical that aids in mental health regulation, and stimulates norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that enhances mood.
- Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural “happy chemicals,” and reduces cortisol, the stress hormone.
- Sports are linked to lower rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and suicidal behavior among teenagers.
- Engaging in team sports reduces the risk of substance abuse and other risky behaviors among teens.
- Team sports enhance resilience, empathy, confidence, and empowerment.
- Participation in sports has been shown to improve executive functioning, creativity, cognitive development, and self-regulation.
- Improved teamwork and social responsibility are key outcomes of engaging in sports.
- Teens with disabilities experience better well-being through participation in sports and other outdoor activities.
- Teen sports, as well as outdoor activities, allow teenagers to spend time in nature, reaping the benefits it offers.
- Physical activity through sports improves sleep quality, which is essential for maintaining good mental health.
Combatting Anxiety Through Physical Activity
Another study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, surveyed 850 students from ten Canadian schools about their participation in team sports such as basketball, soccer, track and field, wrestling, and gymnastics. Three years after graduation, researchers followed up with the participants and discovered that those who were involved in school sports exhibited lower symptoms of depression, experienced less perceived stress, and rated their own mental health more positively than those who did not participate in sports at all. The authors of the study concluded that playing high school sports protected young people from poor mental health outcomes four years later.