It’s no secret that exercising and moving your body on a regular basis can have all kinds of benefits, not only for your physical health, but for your mental and emotional health as well. Engaging in physical sports can make a huge difference in your cognitive function, whether you’ve engaged in it since you were a teenager or you’re starting for the first time in your fifties.
Physical Benefits of Exercise
Exercising regularly can improve almost every aspect of your life, at all stages of your life. Physical exercise can help strengthen bones and muscles, prevent weight gain, assist in weight loss, and reduce your risk of heart disease. Participating in regular physical activity can also reduce your risks of certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and is proven to increase your chances of living longer. Even something as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day can have an incredible effect on your quality of life. Improved circulation and reduced pain, especially in adults over 40, are common positive side effects of regular exercise.
Other benefits of regular exercise include increased endorphins and mood-boosting effects, plus it can help alleviate stiffness and arthritis symptoms and give you younger-looking skin!
Mental Benefits of Exercise
While the physical benefits of exercise are many and significant, the mental health benefits are sometimes even more drastically positive. Physical activity is proven to improve mental health symptoms for a number of diagnosed conditions. According to the National Library of Medicine, studies showed that patients with severe mental disorders and conditions saw drastic improvements in their conditions with regular application of aerobic exercise like dancing, running, swimming or cycling.
Evidence suggests that regular exercise can do the following:
- Improve sleep patterns
- Boost self-esteem
- Increase energy and stamina
- Increase libido
- Increase mental alertness
- Reduce stress
- Increase weight reduction
- Reduce blood pressure level
How Do Group Sports Differ From Solo Exercise in Regards to Mental Health?
Participating in group sports have all the regular mental and physical benefits that you can expect, but there are a host of others that you typically won’t get with solo exercise. Not only can playing team sports lead to better mental health while playing them, it has also been proven to lead to better mental health results later in life. According to the Newport Academy, groups of teens who had played sports in school were more likely to rate their mental health higher than non-sports players up to four years after the last time they had participated in group sports.
Humans need social interaction to survive, and group sports offer a wealth of social interaction with your peers. More often than not, the people on your team are going to have a lot in common with you outside of the sport that you play, leading to long-term positive relationships and support outside of the team dynamic. Seeking out group sports or physical activities are a great way to make new friends, especially as an adult. Making friends in adulthood is significantly harder than making friends as a teen, and most adults are typically limited to the people they knew in childhood or in their field of work.
How Can I Get Involved In Group Sports As an Adult?
The world is your oyster if your goal is to get involved in group sports as an adult. Most gyms and recreation centers have intramural teams for volleyball, swimming, basketball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, lacrosse, and sometimes even tennis or badminton. If you’re in a more rural area with less access to programs, start your own! Advertise in your local paper for interested people, find an area to play and practice in, and revel in your newfound friends and your boosted endorphins.
If you’re not that excited by team sports but you still want to exercise in an environment of camaraderie, find some local exercise classes that make you excited to leave the house. Yoga, pilates, and dance are all wonderful indoor activities that will give you all the benefits of group sports with none of the competition. You could even join a running club or, if you want to mix exercise with one of your hobbies, a local motorsports chapter.
A particularly mentally and physically stimulating option is to become a referee. If you love watching basketball but need to get off the bleachers and exercise, any fan can tell you that sometimes the referees run more than the players! Take classes with your state referee association to become officially accredited to referee your local high school or college games, or volunteer as a ref for a local intramural league.
Whether you’re joining your local water polo league, flinging discs in the park for an ultimate frisbee competition, or running your first 5K with a nearby running club, know that you are taking care of your body AND mind in a way that will benefit you for years to come. You might even make some lifelong friends along the way.