Bridging the Gap Between Mental Health and Sports in Adolescence

We’ve heard before that staying active has positive effects on lowering depression and anxiety as well as keeping the mind strong and resilient. This couldn’t be more true during adolescence; offering your child the opportunity to participate in a team or individual sport has instrumental benefits in value development, having a social support group and creating lifelong health habits that they will carry far into adulthood.

Whether it’s biking, soccer, or cross country running, sports encourage athletes to develop values such as teamwork, cooperation, time management, critical thinking, self-confidence and judgement that will set them up for future success in careers and higher education. Many of these skills are those that are developed through life experiences and is an added bonus to learn and develop at a young age. Learning these necessary skills at a younger age strengthens emotional intelligence and allows young adults to cope with and adapt to different situations with less stress and worry.

An added bonus to joining a sports team is the availability of social support the young athlete can depend on. Whether it’s problems at school, an argument with a loved one, or the stresses of going through puberty, the child has a support group of other kids his or her age that can relate to not only the sport they play but also what he or she is going through personally. Having access to a group similar in age takes the burden off a child of going through difficult times alone.

Additionally, during the transformative years of children growing into young adults, establishing an active lifestyle from an early age is a great habit to build that can easily adapt as life changes. To touch on some of the physical health benefits of being active in sports, growing the habit of regularly exercising can result in healthy weight management, cardiorespiratory, muscle and bone health,

improved sleep, and decreases in cortisol (stress hormone) and increases in endorphins (feel good hormones).

Having the opportunity to learn essential life values and building healthy lifestyle habits from a young age can have an incredibly positive affect on your child’s mental health. Whether through an individual or team sport, consider looking into an active extra-curricular that your child may be interested in. One of the many benefits of sports is that there is something to appeal to everyone, whether it involves wheels, running shoes, cleats, bats or rackets. Check out your local YMCA, community center, school athletics department or other local sports club on ways for your child to get involved.

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