The Relationship Between Doing Sports and Our Mental Health

Participation in sports is important at every stage of life, especially for children, adolescents and young adults, it is critical for health promotion, disease prevention and mental well-being. Individuals can take part in many activities such as sports and art in their spare time in order to reduce the negative effects of the external environment, to regain the decreasing mental energy in business and social life, and also to feel happy, good and healthy (Başar, 2018). Physical activity has an important place in these activities. Doing sports is beneficial for the development of positive self-esteem and mental resilience in individuals, as it allows the athletes to try themselves, to compare themselves with other sportsmen, and to provide a healthy competition environment. Regular exercise has benefits for our body, such as improving our physical performance, reducing the risk of diseases such as heart diseases, high blood pressure and cholesterol, slowing down age-related bone deterioration, helping to maintain weight, reducing body fat and increasing muscle ratio, and reducing the risk of obesity. we are all familiar with it. Incorporating sports into our routine has a great impact on our mental health as well as our physical health.

When we look at its neurobiological effects, regular activity causes some changes in the brain, affects cognitive functions and makes the individual feel better. Let’s think of our brain as a muscle and we can improve our brain by doing regular sports. In his article titled “Exercise is Brain Food,” Plowman of the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, presents three dominant neuroscience theories explaining how physical activity positively affects cognition: Oxygen saturation and angiogenesis (when exercising, areas of the brain associated with rational thinking and social, physical and intellectual performance). blood vessel enlargement) occurs. Exercise lowers stress hormones and increases the number of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which are known to speed up information processing. Exercise upregulates neurotrophins (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, insulin-like growth factor, and essential fibroblast growth factor). They support the survival and differentiation of neurons in the developing brain, dendritic branching, and synaptic machinery in the adult brain. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain. The blood provides the oxygen and glucose the brain needs for heightened alertness and mental focus. As a result of the researches, improvement in short-term memory, faster reaction time and higher level of creativity have been observed in people who do sports regularly (Ploughman, 2008). Regular exercise helps regenerate nerve cells in the brain and delays the aging of brain cells. Even a single sports workout provides an instant rise in the level of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. The lack of dopamine and serotonin in our body manifests itself in the form of inability to focus, low energy, weakness, feelings of hopelessness and guilt, anxiety, appetite changes, forgetfulness, and anger. These deficiencies lead to a decrease in your quality of life.

When we look at the psychosocial and behavioral effects, the adoption of sports as a lifestyle is effective in protecting the psychosocial health of individuals. In the related research of Sharma, Madaan, and Petty (2018), exercise; It has been stated that it reduces anxiety, depression and negative mood, improves self-esteem and cognitive function, and has positive effects on mental health. On the other hand, exercise has also been shown to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal. However, it has been underlined that exercise is an important adjunctive therapy in schizophrenia, because schizophrenic patients are particularly vulnerable to obesity due to the risk of weight gain in antipsychotic treatments. In the related study, it was reported that schizophrenic patients who participated in a monthly physical conditioning program showed improvements in weight control, increased vitality levels, increased energy levels, and increased hand grip strength levels. In the related study of Malchow et al. (2013), it was stated that individuals who regularly engage in physical activity are characterized by lower depression and anxiety symptoms, while depressive symptoms are higher in individuals who do little or no physical activity. Particularly in the adolescent age group, it has been shown that not taking part in any social activity or not participating in a social activity within the framework of a certain program, supervision and purpose is associated with academic failure, antisocial attitudes, suicide and illegal substance abuse (Gilman etc., 2004). Doing sports is also very beneficial in reducing the stress factor that every person in the world is exposed to. During regular exercise, the secretion of the endorphin hormone, which gives the person a feeling of happiness, increases and this hormone helps to reduce the wearing effects caused by stress. Thus, when the person encounters stress, his immediate reactions are reduced. Regular exercise also allows us to be less affected by the anger we experience during the day and to control it. Exercising allows your muscles to relax and your mood to calm down, the energy that arises from anger is not suppressed, but it is thrown out, and it allows you to evaluate events more calmly. In addition, there are many studies on the positive effect of regular exercise on sleep quality. Studies have reported that there is a relationship between low physical activity levels and the prevalence of insomnia (Kelley, 2017). The anxiety-reducing and antidepressant effect of regular exercise plays an important role in the etiology of insomnia and alleviating the psychological comorbidities that may follow (Bernard etc., 2019). People who exercise regularly face less insomnia because exercise improves sleep quality by providing a smoother and more regular transition between sleep cycles and phases.

In summary, it has been supported by many studies that regular exercise has a positive effect on psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, stress disorder, anger disorder, and Alzheimer’s, as well as increasing the happiness and psychological well-being of the individual. It is thought that the findings obtained as a result of these studies are important in terms of contributing to the psychological health of individuals. One of the best ways to protect individuals who lead a sedentary life from their psychological disorders and to make them feel psychologically good is to spread regular exercise to all areas of their lives so that they can gain this habit. Thus, individuals can lead a better quality life, progress more decisively in line with their life goals, and maintain their social relations in a much more effective and healthy way.

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