Monday, July 8, 2024

Adults Who Play Sports Say It Helps Their Mental Health

The forthcoming 2024 Olympics in Paris will likely inspire more than a few armchair sports enthusiasts and their kids to participate in sports themselves—which may lift their emotional well-being. According to APA’s latest Healthy Minds poll, an overwhelming majority of Americans who participate in sports either competitively or recreationally say that it benefits their mental health.

The poll, conducted online June 18 and 19 by Morning Consult on behalf of APA, asked 2,203 adults for their thoughts on sports and mental health and found the following:

  • 67% of men and 48% of women (57% overall) said they participated in sports, with swimming, basketball, and running the most popular activities.
  • 67% of Black adults, 70% of Hispanic adults, and 50% of non-Hispanic White adults said they participated in sports.
  • 84% of those who participate in sports said it benefits their mental health.

In addition, 73% of respondents said that team sports are very or somewhat beneficial for children and teenagers’ mental health. These participants said that team sports offer important benefits besides staying active, such as increased confidence camaraderie, and a sense of structure.

“You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to reap the mental health benefits of exercise and sports,” said APA President Ramaswamy Viswanathan, M.D., Dr.Med.Sc., in a news release. “Getting together with a group of friends, working out, having a hobby, all these aspects of sports can be good for positive mental health.”

Studies have shown that exercise may help reduce symptoms of depression and maintain well-being both as a primary treatment and in conjunction with medication or therapy. There is also evidence that exercise benefits people with posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Among all respondents, 85% agreed that mental health should be prioritized as much as physical health in professional athletes.

“In recent years we’ve heard Olympic and professional athletes share stories about their own mental health challenges,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Marketa M. Wills, M.D., M.B.A. “Their courage and openness helps others understand that it’s okay to take a break or ask for help when needed.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Exercise May Offset Genetic Risk of Depression.”

(Image: Getty Images/iStock/Chris Williams Black Box)

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