How Sports Help Mental, Social and Psychological Fitness In Addition to Physical Fitness
by Keith Barrett
Sporting activities promote physical fitness in a variety of ways. In addition, sports also promote mental, spiritual and social fitness.
Many sports are free to play or involve relatively small costs. Therefore, sporting activities are a great way of keeping physically and mentally fit on a budget.
I will go over the types of fitness that sporting activities promote so as to get a better sense of the breadth of the benefits to the muscles, brain and self-esteem.
We know that sports improve simple muscular fitness. Almost any sport, whether it is baseball, soccer, or rock climbing, will use muscles vigorously. In some sports such as weight lifting or wrestling, this is the primary focus.
In more aerobic sports such as football or baseball, speed and stamina are more important than brute muscular strength, but muscular fitness can still play a very large part.
For instance, to run around the bases quickly in a baseball game, the player has to have very well-developed leg muscles. And to hit the ball hard and far, the arm muscles need to be well-developed. So muscular fitness comes into all sports to a large degree and playing them will thus help develop it.
Cardio fitness promotes good health of the heart and circulatory system. Again, all sports promote this to some degree, though aerobic sorts of sports will emphasize it more. These are sports that involve running, jumping, quick muscular action, and steady activity that lasts for a long time.
This gets the heart pumping blood at an increased rate and thus promotes fitness of the heart and the entire system of arteries, veins and capillaries. Cardio fitness is very important in the prevention of heart attacks.
Pulmonary health is lung health. All exercises increase the breathing rate and work out the lungs. Cardio sports emphasize it more. Indeed, cardio and pulmonary health go hand in hand, since increased heart rate is almost always accompanied by increased breathing rate and deeper breaths. Lung health is very important because lungs are the primary interface between oxygen and the bloodstream.
Most sports help to develop coordination, which is essentially a trait of the brain and nervous system. This involves good motor control reflexes and perceptual processes.
These are all nervous system based faculties. Activities such as diving from a diving board, playing football or jumping over high jumps relies on good coordination and thus these sports help to advance coordination fitness.
Now we come to some fitness levels that are not strictly physical. It is interesting to consider how these levels of fitness can be encouraged by sports and how they interact with its physical benefits.
Mental fitness in the general sense, as it has to do with sports activities, involves skills like strategy, foresight, and creative solutions to immediate problems. A soccer player needs to quickly plan and visualize a series of passes and repositioning that will lead to a goal shot, for instance. Something more meditative, if you will, like rock climbing uses focused mental faculties and creative solutions for moving from one area to another with the best stability, least risk and energy expenditure.
Social fitness is another area that can be directly enhanced by sports. Team sports, for instance, require interacting with many other people both during a game and before and after. This can help develop social skills and fitness as well as simply being a fun social outlet. In fact, sometimes people join teams largely for the social benefits.
Skills like cooperation, communication, confidence, and self expression in social situations can be developed by team sports. Even in non team sporting activities, such as working out in a weight room or swimming in the local pool, there are often many other people involved in the same activity and it is fairly easy to meet them and get into conversations.
Psychological: Self Image
There are benefits to sporting activities on the level of psychological fitness as well. It is well known that being physically fit enhances confidence and a healthy self image. What could be more confidence enhancing on a psychological level than being fit and healthy?
Both on the level of appearance and health, athletic fitness is a beneficial force. It also sends a psychological message that you consider your health important and that you value and care about yourself. That is always a beneficial type of message and psychological outlook to promote.
Sporting activities are therefore means to not only physical but also holistic fitness. Next time when you work out or play a sport, consider the other levels of benefit along with the physical ones. This will not only help you get motivated but also help you feel good about yourself physically and mentally.
(Keith Barrett uses sports trophies as a motivational aid for young people and believes that they can also work well for adults. He is a sports enthusiast and believes that many sporting activities offer a route to stay fit on a budget.)