High school sports can offer a brain boost
A group of Canadian high school students were surveyed about how often they experienced depressive symptoms, the amount of stress in their lives and how they rated their mental health every year from grades 8-12 and then three years after graduation. Researchers found that those involved in sports had better scores on all three health assessments compared to those who were not involved in sports and sports were linked to lower depression symptoms, lower perceived stress and higher self-rated mental health in young adulthood.
“It is important that school administrators recognize the importance of sport participation and physical activity,” said Dr. Catherine Sabiston, the study’s lead author, in a statement. “The associations we have found show a long term impact. School sport from ages 12 to 17 protects those youth from poor mental health four years later.”
In fact, researchers concluded that policies to increase school sport participation may be effective as a part of public health strategies to promote mental health.
According to Sarah Katula, an advanced practice nurse in psychiatry at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., there are many rewards for adolescents who are involved in sports. These include:
- Learning to be a team player
- Learning the rules of sportsmanship
- Learning what it takes to maintain a healthy body and maintain a healthy weight
- Learning to manage stress and develop healthy coping skills
- Having an adult mentor not just for sports but for life
“Keeping adolescents active and engaged in something they are passionate about, where they have the opportunity to be with adult mentors and kept from being idle is important when navigating the rocky waters of adolescence,” Katula says. “When kids belong to anything that is organized and healthy, they do better emotionally.”
While sports offer numerous benefits for kids both mentally and physically, Katula cautions parents and coaches to watch out for unhealthy behaviors. Sometimes, dropping weight can become obsessive and unhealthy for wrestlers. Cheerleaders and gymnasts also can become preoccupied with being thin.
Although some unhealthy habits may develop while participating in sports, the mental and physical health benefits of high school sports last beyond the last game and into adulthood.
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