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This Is Your Brain On Sports

We’ve got a surefire way to improve your GPA this semester or improve your performance at work during these long, cold winter months. It doesn’t involve a quick fix or a miracle drug or a revolutionary new technique. All it takes is a little old-fashioned physical activity – an idea we’ve believed in all along and an idea science is beginning to prove more and more. But how exactly does being physically active help in other areas of our lives? Keep reading for the scientific breakdown.

Participating in sports and physical activity improves one’s overall outlook on life, decrease depression, and improve one’s mood through the release of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. Endorphins, for example, are released when exercising. These chemicals are able to relieve pain and make people feel mentally stable and, simply, positive and happy. After exercise, endorphins are released and can cause a runner’s high, a positive mental experience prompted by physical activity.

Steve Joordens, a psychology professor at Canada’s University of Toronto Scarborough, explains, “Something we do know is that aerobic activity, in general, makes people happier. We know from depression research that one of the best ways to battle depression is some sort of physical activity, even though we may not fully understand why.”

Joorden explains the decrease in symptoms of depression as being “caused by physical aspects, like better flow of oxygen and nutrients to the body, or because of psychological reasons, which include increased control over oneself and [the] environment, or both working together.”

“The more you train, the better you get, and you start to feel like you are in control of your physicality, etc., which can… increase yourself worth,” says Joordens.

Normally, when participating in sports and exercise, changes in physical appearance can become pronounced over time, including weight loss and muscle gain. This can boost an individual’s self-esteem and confidence.

Exercise reduces excess amounts of stress hormones in the body, like adrenaline and cortisol. The release of adrenaline alleviates tension and encourages relaxation. Because excess levels of stress hormones are released during physical activity during the day, a good night’s sleep comes much easier.

All in all, sports and physical exercise offer many health benefits… from weight loss and decreased depression to sleep regulation and increased self-esteem, with very few negative side effects. So…what are you waiting for?

Need more proof? Our research report, Her Life Depends On It II, draws critical conclusions that further emphasize the vital roles that sports play in the physical and social health of girls and women. The report is compiled from more than 2,000 studies examining women’s athletics and health. Learn more here.