Some people are born athletes and that’s the primary reason why they excel at any sport and why they continue being active their whole lives. Others like me were encouraged from a young age about the importance of staying fit and healthy and the many benefits sports offer. Exercising is one of the most productive and generally beneficial things anyone can do with their time. It’s good for our health, both physical and mental, our attitudes, motivation and even our social skills.
I was born into a football crazy family which at first forced me to at least attempt to play football, as I grew so did my love for sport and to this day I thank them for it. I am now studying Sport Science at a higher level as part of my IB diploma and hope to continue my sports journey into my further education and professional career. I am a true third culture kid and have had to move around and live in many different countries, attend multiple schools and adapt to lots of different cultures. Being able to join sports teams meant I always made friends and felt instantly a part of the community. When you play a team sport, everyone has something in common with you and you are all working towards the same goal.
Sports often appears to be mainly focused on physical wellbeing and it’s true that gradually over time while participating in sports people often see a change to their body and notice that they are fitter and stronger. This physical change definitely helps with a teenager or child’s self-esteem. Your self-confidence at a young age plays a huge role in your life as you need the confidence to be proud of your own body and feel self-assured about taking risks and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Another big plus of physical exercise is that it helps you to control your weight and burn calories and keeps your blood flowing smoothly which can help you manage health problems. Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently and when your heart and lung capacity improve, you have more energy and it definitely helps you sleep better. Just remember not to exercise too close to your bedtime otherwise you might have too much energy to go to sleep!
A major benefit of playing sports is that it improves your mood, your body releases endorphins which causes your stress levels to go down and reduces your level of anxiety and lowers the chances of developing depression. Mental health challenges are more common in my generation due to the constant stress at school where the expectations are much higher than before and the amount of time children are spending on their screens. One way to help yourself overcome and manage your anxiety is to exercise as it gives people a sense of accomplishment and boosts production of neurotransmitters like dopamine which make us feel good about ourselves. While your adrenaline is pumping and you are focused on the sports it helps you forget about the problems of that day and reset your mind.
Exercise is also one of the best ways to boost your brain power as it prevents cognitive degeneration. In people with dementia, exercise has proven to help cognitive function and have positive effects on the brain.
I have been able to see first hand how sports has improved my social health throughout many years of changing schools. Football in India gave me a chance to find my own group who shared my interests and made me feel less lonely. When playing sports you are a part of a community and if you stay respectful and loyal to this community, they will show you the same loyalty and support in return. When you become part of a sports team you learn how to collaborate in a team setting and respect other people’s ideas and build better communication skills. Your team mates also motivate you to do better and become a better athlete, whether that’s scoring your first goal or running your first marathon. Even if you don’t do a team sport you can still have a work-out partner in the gym or participate in group activities like gymnastics or yoga which are also good ways to make new social circles and friends.
Sports can also be a great way to open-up new opportunities for you and meet new people by joining a university football team or starting a new job and finding co-workers who play tennis. This way you instantly have made some kind of connection with a person you knew nothing about and can develop new friendships.
I cannot imagine my school journey and my life without sports and the positive way they have impacted my life.
“When I go onto a grass field whether it’s to play rugby or to play football I know that everything changes. I treat my sport like a safe space as it’s somewhere I know that everyone has just come to play and not judge but to just have fun, enjoy our sport and do our best.”