How students can improve their mental health by doing sports in college


How students can improve their mental health by doing sports in college

Experts say that good mental health is much more than just the absence of a disorder. In fact, mental health is a state of well-being in which a person is able to cope with normal life stressors, can work quite productively and contributes to their community. This definition was given by the World Health Organization. In contrast, poor mental health is characterized by changes in cognitive, emotional or behavioral aspects that are associated with impaired functioning and distress.

Unfortunately, the life of students is full of stress. Most of them live under the constant pressure of upcoming exams and deadlines. In such a situation, it’s really difficult to maintain good mental health. However, since recently, media coverage and public education have shed light on sports as a key contributor to our mental health. In this article, you will read whether it’s true or not that sports can help young people reduce stress levels and diminish psychological problems.

Read more about mental health

Before you learn how to improve your mental health, research this topic deeper to have a better understanding of what psychological well-being is like. In short, it’s a combination of a positive physical, social and mental state. If you find some mental health essay samples to download, you will see that mental well-being includes several elements. They are the ability to develop one’s potential, be creative at work, and build strong relationships with others. What’s more, good psychological health is impossible without a feeling of general life satisfaction, optimism and adequate self-esteem.

What happens when we do sports

It’s a well-known fact that exercise increases levels of serotonin, which is one of the most important neuromediators regulating our mood. Besides, physical activity causes endorphin release, so we can feel great effects of these natural ‘happy chemicals’. At the same time, the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol go down. Workouts also stimulate the release of neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which significantly improves mood.

Apart from that, outdoor sports allow us to experience the benefits of spending time in nature, one of which is a better night's sleep that is essential for maintaining good mental health. Young people that master their athletic skills generally feel more positive about their physical abilities and bodies. In its turn, this boosts their self-esteem and personal image.

Research on physical activity and depression

Multiple studies have shown how sports counteracts the symptoms of depression. It’s a proven fact that regular workouts make a big positive impact on depressed individuals. Researchers assume that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, can you imagine that?

One study found that exercise can be as helpful as antidepressant medications when treating mild or moderate depression. What's more, the combination of these two can dramatically improve depressive symptoms. Let’s consider this study in more detail.

Scientists divided 156 individuals struggling with depression into three groups. The first group did regular aerobic exercises, the second one took Zoloft, and the last one exercised and took medication at the same time. As a result, depression eased in each group after 16 weeks.

However, a follow-up study conducted in 6 months revealed that the effects of exercise lasted longer than those of medications. Hence, physical activity has a positive impact on both the biology and psychology of depression.

Sports and anxiety

In addition to protecting students from depression, sports can prevent or decrease symptoms of anxiety. The research conducted among college students reported that physically active individuals had higher levels of enthusiasm as compared to those who were passive. Another study showed that people who got regular exercise were 25% less likely to develop an anxiety disorder over the next 5 years.

According to Jack Raglin, sport sessions improve mood, raise energy levels and decrease symptoms of anxiety. In the long run, physical activity can significantly improve serious mental health conditions, including anxiety, to a degree that rivals medications.

Exercise and substance abuse

Did you know that addiction usually manifests itself for the first time at college? Probably, this happens due to the big academic stress. Luckily, physical activity can not only keep anxiety and depression at bay, but also beat addiction. Although scientists are still looking closely at the neurobiological basis of this discovery, research demonstrated that regular sports can help addicts get off drugs and alcohol.

As you know, addictive substances stimulate the brain’s reward system by catalyzing a powerful surge of the pleasure hormone called dopamine. Hence, a key to successful recovery can be found in natural ways of stimulating dopamine release. Since physical activity provides a healthy reward for the brain, former addicts can stay in recovery long term.


Author’s BIO

James Collins is a researcher and mental health expert. James studies individual and environmental factors that affect psychological well-being. He also works with students as a private counselor to help them reduce stress levels and feel happier.