Sport and mental health are two undeniably related concepts and many studies have delved into how they are linked and influence each other. Mental health includes emotional, psychological and social well-being, which can affect us in any area of our lives. In particular, it influences the way a person thinks, feels and acts.
The dual relationship between sport and mental health
The practice of sporting activity, of whatever kind, brings us multiple benefits that help to prevent mental illnesses. These serious conditions, of short or long duration, can change our behaviour and mood, as well as the way we relate to others. In the following section, we explain the importance of sports for mental health.
But we must also talk about the other relationship that exists in reverse: how mental health influences in various ways whether the practice of sport is better or worse. It plays a fundamental role in elite or high-performance athletes.
The importance of sport in mental health
With the daily social and work routine, we can be subjected to high levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue and insomnia. It has been scientifically proven that regular exercise reduces or allows us to control these psychological problems, to which we can add depression, another of the most common.
That is why sports and mental health should always go hand in hand. It is our mind’s best ally. Why? Because some of the main brain neurotransmitters are activated when physical activity takes place. We are referring to the so-called happiness hormones:
- Serotonin, which boosts our self-esteem and confidence. It also strengthens the feeling of belonging to a group.
- Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of pleasure. It is secreted when we overcome sporting challenges we set ourselves or gain the approval of other people, for example.
- Endorphin, which works as a natural painkiller, leading to a state of relaxation. Very useful against stress or fear.
- Oxytocin is the hormone that balances our emotional and affective bonds. Especially if sports practice involves establishing relationships with others.
Benefits of sport to improve mental health
- It decreases the likelihood of suffering from mental disorders, as we have already mentioned, or if they already exist, their symptoms are alleviated.
- It increases psychomotor skills and improves cognitive functions, thus slowing cognitive decline and even preventing neurodegenerative diseases.
- Encourages interpersonal and intrapersonal communication.
- Improves personal self-esteem. Sport and mental health allow us to feel good about ourselves.
- Promotes sensory stimulation.
- It contributes positively to resilience or the ability to overcome adversity.
- It reduces the level of cortisol in the body, both during and after exercise.
- Stimulates the creation of new neurons by increasing levels of neurotrophins.
- It enhances concentration, memory and learning.
- It benefits the quality of sleep and getting a better rest. This results in a good mood the next day, not getting irritated easily, and so on.
Ideal sports for certain psychological problems
We can exemplify the positive relationship between sport and mental health with these six concrete cases:
- Boxing, especially kickboxing, helps to combat depression. The reason is that the punches and kicks (whether in the ring or against a bag) release large amounts of endorphins.
- Pilates is another useful discipline to deal with stress and negative or violent thoughts that can lead to aggression. The explanation lies in the fact that the different exercises encourage body control and impulse control.
- Yoga is also beneficial for anxiety, as the relaxed postures and movements help you learn to control your breathing and manage your emotions.
- Running, on the other hand, is a great way to get rid of insomnia. Running improves blood circulation and heart rate. It has been shown to help you fall asleep more quickly and prolong the duration of the deepest phases of sleep.
- Swimming in the face of loneliness is especially positive as it is an individual sport. It helps those who cannot tolerate being alone to focus on themselves.
- Finally, Karate is beneficial for overcoming the processes of grief or loss of a loved one. In the activity, emotions are discharged, awareness of the body is raised and the expulsion of energy is controlled.
How mental health affects performance in sport
If we reverse the concepts of sport and mental health, we see that in sporting activity, certain cognitive characteristics are present in the training programmes in order to achieve the proposed objectives.
We are talking about motivation, commitment, confidence and self-esteem, discipline, determination, concentration and emotional control. Failure to properly manage all these emotional or psychological aspects can lead to high stress, anxiety or even depression. Mental problems that can worsen performance.
In short, we would like to stress the importance of both knowing how to control our mind and practising exercise, of whatever kind, to prevent conditions that can become serious. We recommend using G7 Neuro Health as a supplement in addition to sport, which helps you to function well psychologically thanks to its biotin and organic silica content.