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Health

Keep Calm and Sweat

Summer is wrapping up which means the school year is getting ready to begin: a time of year where stress is almost inevitable. It has long been said that regular participation in physical activity has the positive effect of elevating mood states, so why not begin now?

Whether it’s soccer, yoga, weight training or dance, staying active can help increase your mood as a result of two things. When exercising, the body produces chemicals, such as endorphins, which help regulate sleep, manage stress and fatigue and make you feel good. Endorphins can cause that after workout high, which is a positive mental experience prompted by exercise, according to findings in our Her Life Depends On It III research report. Exercise also has the ability to stimulate the creation of brain-derived neurotropic factor, which aids in the repair of neurons and the generation of new neurons (Warren, 2013).

Anyone can reap these benefits just by participating in physical activity, it’s not reserved just for the athletes. Numerous studies have shown that psychological benefits are entwined with participation in sport and that many athletes present an ‘iceberg profile,’ meaning that they possess high levels of vigor along with low levels of anger, depression, tension, fatigue, and confusion (Morgan, 1980; Terry, 1995).

Not only can physical activity help manage stress but it has the added benefits of lowering cholesterol, controlling or eliminating diabetes and reducing hypertension. Yet despite the benefits regular exercise can offer, many people report not exercising due to stress even though that is the best time to head out and get active. One study even found that short workouts of eight minutes in length could help lower sadness, tension and anger (hyperlink).

As the school year starts up, many students and their parents will begin to experience increased levels of stress. Regular exercise can help to control stress and can actually improve brain functioning and performance in the classroom. Girls who participate in high school sports are more likely to complete college than those who did not and girls may gain an additional academic advantage due to their involvement in sports when compared to boys. For that reason, parents should encourage their children to play a sport, ramp it up in gym class or find an activity after-school that keeps them in top mental and physical shape.

Contrary to popular belief that participation in sports diminishes students’ mental and physical energy that could have otherwise been devoted to academic endeavors, the majority of research shows that participation in high school athletics is actually linked to improved academic performance and economists have found a positive association between sports participation and future wages and earnings for women.

So, set down the books, take a break and do something active because your body and brain can only thank you for it.

Photo Credit: Jacek Chabraszewski