While we typically associate physical health benefits with sports participation, there are also a range of direct and indirect health benefits. Sports participation has been shown to both improve psychological wellbeing (the positive aspect of mental health) as well as reducing psychological illness (the negative consequences). Sport has also been shown to have positive effects at the community level.
The positive mental health outcomes associated with sports participation are as true for individual social participants as they are for the national sporting organisations we work with at Synergy Group. There is clear evidence for leaders, organisations and communities about the rewards of investing in sport and physical activity for staff and members.
The direct mental health benefits of sports participation include improved mood and reduced anxiety, which are associated with the physiological changes occurring in the brain through the simple physical activity. Physical activity is associated with increased levels of endorphins and serotonin in the brain that improve mood and reduce the levels of cortisol, which is associated with the stress response, in the body. The increased fitness associated with sports participation has also been shown to improve mood.
While participation typically involves some degree of skill mastery, which can lead to improved self-confidence and self-efficacy, both of which improve mood. It can lead to great involvement in community activities, contributing to increased self-esteem in individuals. For example, participation in sport through the volunteering (referees, coaches, etc.) contributes to building denser community connections that provide a community that is more resilient and more supportive of its members.
In general terms, participation in sport, whether individual or team sport, has been shown to have positive mental health benefits and contributes to a range of positive social outcomes that indirectly build mental wellbeing in individuals.
More broadly, there is evidence that sports participation contributes to higher levels of cognitive functioning, creativity, and cognitive development. The opportunities and benefits for business, workplaces and communities are numerous. Bringing out the best in our people may be as simple as encouraging and supporting their participation in sport and physical activities.
Synergy Group is proudly supporting the Great Debate on sport for Social Sciences Week on 5 September at the National Library of Australia. Get your tickets here: https://socialsciencesweek.org.au/event/the-great-debate-does-sport-unite-or-divide-us/