Head in the game

The benefits of high school sports on mental health

Head in the game

Students have been able to reclaim a sense of a normal high school experience with the reinstatement of sports seasons. The restoration of sports offers students a form of coping with feelings of loneliness and uncertainty during these unprecedented times, ultimately providing them with a light at the end of tunnel we call a global pandemic. 

The science behind the therapeutic outlet sports offer, comes from the release of the feel-good chemical, endorphins. Scientists have concluded that exercise produces endorphins which reduce pain and boost pleasureTherefore, regular physical activity has been shown to have a positive effect on one’s mental health. Exercise has even been proven to increase self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety. 

 For many high schoolers, sports are a way to escape the looming pressures of teenage life. Rachel Kim, a junior on Battlefield’s field hockey team, states, “Sports allow me to take a break from my work and go outside to play and blow off some steam. I play field hockey and practice is after school, so it forces me to get off my screen and work out. It’s also nice seeing my friends every day at practice. I have found that when I come home, I am able to focus on my homework a lot better.” Additionally, exercise has been shown to reduce the effects of diagnosed mental disorders like anxiety and depression by releasing endorphins. 

Furthermore, regular exercise has also been shown to improve and regulate sleep patterns. Scientists have uncovered the important relationship between sleep and mental wellbeing. According to the Sleep Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes and compiles research conducted on the importance of sleep on health, Around 75% of depressed people show symptoms of insomnia, and many people with depression also suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness and hypersomnia, which is sleeping too much. Historically, sleeping problems were seen as a consequence of depression, but growing evidence suggests that poor sleep may induce or exacerbate depression.” Although scientists do not entirely understand the intricacies of exercise’s impact on sleep, they do recommend 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise to improve sleep quality. 

Beyond the sciencesports can drastically improve teenager’s mental health by creating a community in which they belong. By establishing this healthy environment, teens often form lifelong friendships and mentorships. A study conducted by the Cleveland Clinc showed that children who participated in sports during their childhood are less likely to develop depression. Dr. Joe Austerman, a researcher in this study, contributed the results to the idea that “team sports help kids learn important social skills and how to interact with their peers more effectively.” This reinforces the mental health ties to community and feeling a sense of belonging, which is a natural human nature dating back to cavemen 

Although sports can affect student-athletes mental health negatively, many find sports to be therapeutic and as a tool to cope with their anxieties and stresses. With healthy boundaries and an uplifting team, athletes are bound to have fun and successful athletic careers.