Sport and Mental Wellbeing

It’s 2018. People are living longer, smoking less, and (as made abundantly clear via Instagram) living healthier lifestyles. 

It goes without saying that exercise and sport are a big factor in helping us achieve better health; being stronger, fitter, aiding weight loss, improving circulation and adding years to your life. Yet, being ‘healthy’ is not limited to physical well-being, and mental well-being is equally, if not more important. 


In a bid to take good care of ourselves, here are a few ways sports and regular exercise can help clear the mind: 


Boost Happy Hormones: When we exercise, chemical changes take place in the brain, as well as the release of ‘endorphins’, also called the ‘happy hormone’, which trigger positive feelings in the body and can calm anxiety; Which is generally why we feel so much better after a match or hard gym session.  


Relieves Stress: Stress is an inevitable part of life, but there are ways to handle it better, (you know where I'm going with this); exercise. Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has helped to decrease overall levels of tension. So if you have a work problem or college assignment, make it your business to go to training or even a brisk walk to clear the mind before tackling the problem.  


Improves Sleep: Much of the time we feel lethargic and unproductive we blame it on not getting enough sleep. When we exercise, we trigger an increase in our body temperature i.e. sweating, so when our temperature drops post-workout, it aids sleep. In some cases, exercising has been likened to having the same effect as taking a sleeping pill. Having a decent sleep can then have a knock on affect in terms of clearer thinking, concentration, having more energy and a better immune system. 


Social benefits: Being involved in a club or community of people with similar interests as yourself, whether its a football club or running group, feeling like your part of something can help with self-esteem and loneliness. Not to mention there is a great sense of achievement after playing games, win or lose. The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is one group that has over 2,200 clubs in Ireland and has run campaigns in recent years to end stigma and normalize discussion around mental health issues. 


If you feel that you aren't happy with your current amount of physical activity, there are so many ways to get involved. Try joining a sporting club or society in your college (even if you don't know anyone, often people in societies are on the same boat), just take the plunge and start a gym membership, or (re)join your local sporting club.