A survey was recently published that explores the connection between exercise and mental health in adolescents, focusing on athletics’ role and more than 7,000 students in the Netherlands (ranging in age from 11 to 16) participated in the survey. One of the researchers’ findings was that students who were active in organized sports reported being happier and felt better about themselves, including a boosted self-esteem and a more favorable self-image.
Teenagers who exercised also had lower rates than those who didn’t for things like acting aggressively and trouble-making. There were benefits socially too, as the students who participated on sports teams were found to have more friends.
Being on a sports team was the launching point for a lot of my friendships, and while it wasn’t the only thing going in my life that affected my self-esteem, I also defined a lot of my personality – and as a result, my self-image – around sports and exercise.
I switched schools right before ninth grade, and I think my high school experience would have been very different if I didn’t play on a sports team. In the last weeks of summer vacation during field hockey preseason I was able to make friends, and I started school feeling more comfortable than I may have otherwise.
Plus, combined with my accomplishment of making the team, all the training I’d put in had me feeling good about my body, and both of those gave me that boost of self-esteem to start powering through all the other parts of school. Sports teams and exercise weren’t a magic trick where I participated and POOF, suddenly I knew how to be happy! They were though essential ingredients to building up a solid self-image that made me happier with my life.
Team sports aren’t necessarily everyone’s jam, and that’s okay! There are so many types of options for exercise that run such a wide range of possibilities. If you try some things out, you’re likely to find something that works for your interests and lifestyle. Between the people you could meet to how you could feel about yourself, making physical activity a part of your life can have such awesome benefits, so it’s certainly worth giving a whirl!
Do you play sports? Do you prefer team sports or individual forms of exercise? Do you find that when you exercise you feel better about yourself? Tell us in the comments!