28 May 2023 • 5 Mins Read

How sports can help students with their mental health

Looking after our wellbeing is more important than ever right now, and in no group is it more vital that good mental health practices are established early than in young people.

Mental health in young people is on the decline. A survey by NHS Digital found that 1 in 6 children in England had a probable mental disorder in 2021 – an increase from 1 in 9 in 2017. Another study by the CDC found that 1 in 3 high school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019.

But how do these mental health struggles manifest themselves? The Mental Health Foundation has found that the most commonly occurring mental health problems in young people include depression, self-harm, PTSD, ADHD, and eating disorders – all of which can have serious consequences for their physical health and development into adulthood.

It’s clear that now is the time to fight the stigma surrounding mental health – and find actionable ways to turn the tide on this growing problem.

One way this can be done is by encouraging participation in sport – something that’s been proven to positively impact wellbeing in many ways. So, let’s delve into sport’s mental health benefits.

Why sport is good for mental health

Physical activity has a huge potential to enhance wellbeing. In fact, there are many mental health in sports statistics that reveal the positive link between sport participation, particularly team sports, and their protective effect against depressive symptoms. A study by Dublin City University found that in a group of students, those who engaged in sport were found to have higher levels of wellbeing and lower symptoms of anxiety and depression. But what exactly are the benefits of team sports on mental health?

1) Sport improves mood
Physical activity triggers endorphins, also known as the mood-lifting brain chemical. These chemicals make people feel happier and more relaxed, and team sports in particular give young people the chance to unwind and focus on something aside from their everyday stresses.

2) Sport improves concentration
Regular physical activity helps to keep young people mentally sharp, developing key skills including thinking, learning, and using good judgement. These skills are proven to last as a person ages, if sport is undertaken regularly.

3) Sport encourages friendship
The best sports for mental health are those that support group participation, as this is a way for young people to build friendships in a relaxed setting away from a classroom environment. Sports like football, netball, and rugby also encourage teamwork – a quality that can combat feelings of loneliness in young people.

4) Sport boosts confidence
Another way sport effects mental health is by boosting confidence and improving self-esteem. When young people regularly undertake a sport, naturally their skills improve, which has positive effects on both physical and mental wellbeing.

5) Sport reduces stress
Playing sport can be highly effective in relieving stress, as not only does it provide a distraction for the mind, the natural mood lifters produced during exercise can also keep feelings of stress and depression at bay.

6) Sport improves sleep
Sport can improve the quality of a young person’s sleep, and even lead to healthier sleeping patterns long-term. With a better quality of sleep, their mental outlook will be improved for the next day, which will contribute to more positivity in general.

It’s clear sport can have a hugely positive impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of a young person, helping them learn skills and healthy habits that they’ll take into later life.

At Sports Experiences, we’re the experts in arranging unique experiences that put sport at the centre of the trip – helping young people build valuable skills in new and exciting environments. To find out more about how our sports trips could help your team reap the benefits of team sports on mental health, speak to a member of our team or request a quote today.