Whether playing lacrosse, soccer or fencing, kids who participate in sports can benefit both physically and mentally. Kids experience a multitude of benefits:
1. Improves Physical Health
Childhood obesity is at an all-time high, which puts kids at increased risk for serious health conditions, like type 2 diabetes. Time spent sitting on the couch with social media and video games can contribute to the problem. Sports get kids moving, which benefits their cardiovascular health, burns calories, improves metabolism and improves strength and mobility. And physically active kids tend to sleep better, which is essential for healthy growth and wellbeing.
Playing sports also supports long-term exercise habits. Kids who play sports are eight times more likely to be physically active at age 24 than those who do not play. However, teens who exclusively play a single sport may have an increased risk of injury.1 Playing more than one sport can help prevent injury as well as burnout. It is also equally important for kids to rest and give them time to recover.
2. Develops Positive Mental Health
Exercise decreases cortisol, the hormone that is released when stressful situations occur. Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones increasing serotonin, which plays an important role in mood. Playing a sport and contributing to a team creates a sense of achievement and camaraderie, which improves self-esteem and confidence.
Physical activity can help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as create feelings of well-being for several hours after. Regular participation in sports has been found to be as effective as medication in improving mental health and happiness.
“Participation in youth team sports has been linked with lower rates of depression and anxiety, along with a reduced risk of suicide and substance abuse,” says Soroosh Amanat, MD.2 The more time kids play sports may mean the less time they are on social media and playing video games, which can have a negative effect on their well-being.
3. Encourages Social Interactions
Sports can help build social skills by bringing kids with similar interests together, encouraging interactions and creating a community of shared goals. Kids also learn about teamwork, healthy competition, good sportsmanship and empathy — valuable social skills that they can apply to their school and home life.
4. Increases Academic Performance
According to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition Science Board, participation in sports is linked with higher levels of academic achievement and creativity.3 It also helps improve critical thinking and persistence.
5. Reinforces Life Skills
The President’s Council also found that participation in sports increases empowerment, personal responsibility and self-control. It also improves life skills like goal-setting, time management and leadership. Learning to bounce back from a loss or a poor performance teaches resilience and perseverance.
One of the most important benefits of sports for kids is that they should be fun! Kids should not be pressured to play a sport that they don’t enjoy. We should let them decide which sports they want to try and be supportive. Whether you are a parent, coach or educator, each of us have a role to play that can positively influence the health of our kids today and for their future.
- https://www.scripps.org/news_items/6181-multiple-sports-may-mean-fewer-injuries-for-young-athletes ↩︎
- https://www.scripps.org/locations/scripps-coastal-medical-center/scripps-coastal-medical-center-eastlake ↩︎
- https://health.gov/pcsfn ↩︎
If you want to learn more about our Execute Director’s thoughts on kids having fun while playing sport, you can check out this blog post here. Spoiler…It should be fun!
About Mary Crean
Curiosity, persistence, and the desire to help others have afforded Mary a fulfilling and diverse career in business. Mary began her professional journey as a serial entrepreneur most notably in health and fitness, transforming people’s lives one at a time. Nonprofit executive leadership is where she spent the next decade helping people from marginalized communities work toward upward mobility. Most recently, Mary’s love of digging into marketing problems and solving them with technology led her to the insurance industry to help people meet their financial goals. A true believer in kids playing multiple sports, she and her husband Gerry coached and supported their kids Evan and Alex to play multiple sports that have included cross-country, squash, soccer, lacrosse, ice hockey and basketball. They went on to play D3 lacrosse at Emerson College and Mount Holyoke College. Mary holds a BS in Nutrition from the University of Saint Joseph and earned an MBA with a concentration in Marketing from Post University. “My favorite memory of myself as a child is playing croquet with my older sister and two of our neighborhood besties every chance we got in the summer.”
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