Playing sports provides benefits that go far beyond just exercise and fun. Sports are critical for physical, mental, and social wellbeing in both kids and adults.
When we think of sports, we often think of professional athletes playing in big stadiums. But sports can be played at any level, whether professionally, in school, or just for fun with friends. And participating in sports has many advantages that make them worthwhile for people of all ages.
Sports Provide Major Physical Health Benefits
One of the biggest reasons why sports are so beneficial is because of the physical health perks. Playing sports helps individuals develop physical skills, strengthen bones and muscles, maintain coordination, and manage weight.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Sports are a great way to meet these recommendations and get your heart pumping.
Here are some of the major physical health benefits of playing different sports:
Stronger Muscles and Bones
Sports that involve running and jumping, like basketball, soccer, and gymnastics, help build stronger muscles and bones. The impact involved strengthens bones, tendons, and ligaments. Muscles get worked through repeated motions. As muscles are used and stressed, they adapt and become stronger over time.
Playing sports as a kid helps strengthen growing bones. In adults, weight-bearing exercise from sports helps maintain bone density and prevent osteoporosis.
Improved Physical Coordination
Sports challenge your body's coordination by making you move in precise patterns and react quickly. This improves motor skills, balance, and reflexes. Eye-hand and eye-foot coordination get sharpened through sports like tennis, baseball, football, and volleyball.
Playing sports burns calories and helps manage weight. Vigorous sports like soccer, hockey, swimming, and basketball burn over 500 calories per hour. Even lower intensity sports provide weight management benefits.
Staying active through sports helps reduce obesity risk in both kids and adults. Sports involvement encourages an overall active lifestyle.
Reduced Risk of Disease
Regular physical activity from sports reduces risks for many chronic diseases. Active individuals have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, and osteoporosis.
Playing sports improves cardiovascular fitness. It strengthens the heart muscle, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and improves blood circulation.
Healthy Growth in Children
Sports promote healthy growth and development in kids and teens. Playing sports stimulates bone growth, strengthens muscles, and enhances coordination. Active kids are also less likely to be overweight or obese.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. Sports allow kids to meet these activity guidelines.
Clearly, playing sports provides tremendous physical health benefits. But the advantages don’t stop there...
Sports Boost Mental Health and Wellbeing
Along with making you physically fit, participating in sports can lead to better mental health too. Playing sports enhances self-esteem, social skills, and outlook.
Sports are a great way to relieve stress. The endorphins released while playing a sport create positive feelings and improve mood. This can counteract tension, anxiety, and depression.
Here are some of the biggest mental boosts that sports provide:
Higher Self-Esteem and Confidence
Playing a sport can make you feel better about yourself. Learning new skills and accomplishing goals in sports helps build self-confidence. Sports allow you to focus on ability rather than appearance. Feeling competent athletically leads to increased self-assurance.
Team sports encourage peer bonding. Feeling part of a group and gaining social acceptance enhances self-esteem. Sports also provide opportunities for leadership roles that breed confidence.
Stress Relief and Resilience
Playing sports expends energy and helps relieve physical and mental stress. Exercising and competing in sports causes the body to release endorphins. These natural feel-good chemicals produce a positive sensation in the body and mind.
Regularly playing a sport also makes you more resilient. Sports teach you how to bounce back from losses and overcome setbacks. Learning mental toughness in sports translates to dealing better with challenges in life.
Positive Outlook and Mental Wellbeing
Playing sports produces measurable effects on mental health. Studies show that children who play sports have higher self-esteem, lower anxiety levels, and fewer depressive symptoms. Sports have anti-depressive and anxiolytic effects.
In adults, playing sports correlates strongly with happiness and satisfaction with life. Staying active through sports can help ward off anxiety, depression, and negative outlook.
Clearly, sports benefit mental health as much as physical health. Let's look at some of the other advantages of playing sports...
Sports Teach Valuable Life Skills
Participating in sports doesn’t just make you fitter – it also teaches you invaluable life lessons. Here are some of the life skills that playing sports imparts:
Team sports like basketball, soccer, and volleyball teach the value of teamwork. To win, every member must work together. You learn to cooperate, provide support, and communicate effectively with teammates. Understanding team dynamics is a skill applicable well beyond the playing field.
In team sports, some players naturally take on leadership roles. Being a team captain or the coach on the field requires you to motivate teammates, make decisions, and lead by example. These are leadership skills that translate to the workplace.
Sports require continuous goal setting. You work on targeting smaller goals that build skills towards bigger objectives. Setting goals, creating plans to reach them, and monitoring progress helps not just in sports but in academics and careers too.
Playing sports demands a big time investment with practice, games, and travel. Athletes must learn to effectively budget their time and energy. Managing multiple priorities is a skill that helps in school and professional life.
Clearly, sports provide benefits extending far off the field by teaching you skills that apply to every area of life.
Sports Have Academic Benefits Too
Many parents encourage kids to play sports for the academic benefits. Studies show athletes tend to perform better academically than non-athletes.
Playing sports can help students in the classroom in several key ways:
Better Focus and Memory
Sports involve memorization, repetition, and learning play patterns – activities that strengthen educational skill sets. Being physically active improves blood flow to the brain and cognitive abilities. Sports boost focus, memory, and concentration. These mental perks translate directly to better performance in academics.
Studies consistently show a positive correlation between sports involvement and academic achievement. Athletes tend to have higher GPAs, standardized test scores, and graduation rates compared to non-athletes. Exercise and sports help students focus better in class and have more confidence in their abilities.
Improved School Attendance
Kids who play sports tend to have better school attendance records. Being on a team provides motivation to make academics a priority. The eligibility requirements to play sports encourage athletes to avoid skipping school.
In sports, players continuously work to attain goals and get better. This goal-setting mindset causes athletes to be more focused and determined in academics too. Sports teach time management skills that support academic success.
For talented teen athletes, sports provide opportunities for college scholarships. In the U.S., over $3 billion in athletic scholarships are awarded annually. For many students, an athletic scholarship is their ticket to higher education.
Clearly, participating in sports provides benefits that support classroom performance. But sports also teach one more critical life lesson...
Sports Promote Good Sportsmanship
Parents who sign their kids up for sports often want the life lessons learned through athletics. Sports teach values like fairness, respect for rules, and good sportsmanship.
Learning to win and lose with grace are principles encouraged through sports. Athletes must learn to treat teammates, opponents, coaches, and referees with respect even in intense competition.
Here are some of the sportsmanship lessons imparted through sports:
Sports involve rules that promote fair play and respect. Abiding by rules and not cheating instills ethics and integrity in young players. Sports teach that hard work pays off.
Referees and officials make judgment calls in sports that participants must accept. Players learn they won’t always agree with decisions made but shouldn’t argue. This equips young athletes to accept outcomes maturely.
Accountability for Behavior
Unsportsmanlike conduct results in penalties and ejection in sports. Athletes are held accountable for poor attitudes and dirty play. This teaches responsibility for actions.
Clearly, the benefits of sports extend far beyond physical fitness. Sports help develop the whole person. So how much exercise should you aim for through sports?
Recommended Amounts of Physical Activity
Health organizations provide general guidelines for recommended amounts of exercise. But optimal activity levels can vary based on age, current fitness level, sports played, and health status.
Here are the exercise recommendations from leading health authorities:
- CDC: 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes vigorous exercise weekly
- American Heart Association: At least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise
- Mayo Clinic: 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity
- WHO: 150-300 minutes of moderate activity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity weekly
For Older Adults
- Balance exercises and muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week
- Multicomponent physical activity 3+ days a week incorporating balance, strength training, and aerobic activity
- CDC: 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity for ages 6-17
- WHO: 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity for ages 5-17
- American Academy of Pediatrics: At least 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity for ages 6-17
It’s important to consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program. But it’s clear that sports can help both kids and adults meet weekly activity recommendations.
Conclusion: Sports Benefit People of All Ages
Hopefully this article provided ample evidence that sports provide benefits extending far beyond just exercise. While sports help develop physical abilities, they also build valuable life skills and provide a mental boost.
Sports benefit children by building healthy bodies and minds. In adolescents, sports cultivate teamwork, leadership, goal setting abilities, and academic excellence. For adults, playing sports reduces disease risk and provides an outlet for competition and camaraderie. And for seniors, sports promote active aging, reduce falls, and maintain independence.
Clearly, sports are about much more than fun and games. Sports provide lifelong benefits that make active lifestyles worthwhile pursuits for people of all ages.
So don’t think it’s too late to start playing a sport. Pick one you enjoy and get involved at any level. It’s never too early or too late to reap the many rewards sports have to offer. Get off the bench and get in the game! Your mind and body will thank you.