During the past decades people have begun to understand that sport is not only beneficial for the body, but it also improves and reduces several mental affections to a great extent, improving our mental health altogether. Therefore, more and more Governments focus on national sports programmes aiming at citizens' well-being. And by "well-being" we don't only mean the idea of maintaining one's health for a longer time, but also the improvement of one's mental health, which makes every person want to be healthy. Because a generally good state means, as we have known since ancient times, a healthy mind in a healthy body (Mens sana in corpore sano). Consequently, national sports and physical education programmes developed by Governments, which serve the population's longevity and health, are now rather oriented towards the mental benefits of sports. 

Sporting success, new definition

Sporting success was redefined by the British Government in a national strategy, through five key results: physical well-being, mental well-being, individual development, social and community development, as well as economic development. 

Mental health, a strategic objective 

Researchers and Government workers have worked together and reached the conclusion that an active nation is a healthy nation. By encouraging people towards sports, they raise awareness of the benefits of physical activity towards physical and mental health. Sport is now accessible to everyone, either in a public gym under the guidance of a specialist, either at home with the help of educational apps or videos Basically, we can choose our personal trainer using our own criteria, and we can work out when we wake up even without hitting the gym.  

Our mood instantly changes, chances for depression and anxiety are reduced, and our lifestyle finds its balance. Team sports bring other benefits as well, as we become capable of building friendships, we learn what fair play is, we familiarize ourselves with the rules of the game, our minds activate themselves through building strategies and finding solutions, and a victory makes us happy in the long run. Even if we are not part of a football, basketball or handball team, we can always choose yoga, swimming or any type of dance. 

3 major effects on sports on mental health

1. A better mood 

Researchers have compared the results of a study that has been carried out on two groups of people The first group was encouraged to take walks, do light physical exercises or gardening. The participants from the second case study group enjoyed passive activities, such as reading a book. The results have shown that the participants of the first group felt calmer, more drawn towards other activities and even motivated to carry on.

2. Stress reduction

Regular physical activity has a positive impact on stress. How? It helps us handle stressful life situations better, as well as make better decisions. "How does this happen?" - you may ask yourselves. Well, if you have already spent some time working out, you might have noticed that your mind stops continuously nagging at you with all sorts of plans and worries. When we are no longer busy with various scenarios about how our day is going, what meetings we have and how we will pay our bills, the mind quietens and the body focuses on the exercises. This collaboration makes this whole load of negative thoughts and concerns, which trouble our minds every day, disappear, at least for a while. 

3. Our self-esteem increases

This goes without saying. Sport makes us feel alive, more active, and, with time, makes us appreciate ourselves, even for those few hours a week which we dedicate to us, to our minds and bodies. How we perceive ourselves becomes more valuable. Even others' perceptions change. And whoever works out at least a little bit, knows that very well. Because we become calmer and more confident, we don't let criticism or an ugly glance frighten us anymore. We simply make peace with ourselves and we start caring more about how we see ourselves rather than how others see us. And this is a great start!

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Text: Mihaela Moldoveanu