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The Dire Need for Sport and Exercise
The lessons and lifestyle that sport and exercise provide are necessary for everyone to learn for many reasons. A few of these lessons are perseverance, self-discipline, mental toughness, teamwork, and other noticeable and measurable reasons seen in a person’s physical health, endurance, blood pressure, and mental health. The life skills learned by playing a sport are nearly impossible to recreate in any other way than by experiencing them. Even if a person is losing a game, a lesson quickly learned is that they can push through the doubt and still find the energy to perform better in order to win. Or if a team does lose that game, a lesson learned is that life is bigger than that one game and losing does not define a person or a team. It is what that person or team does after the game, for example, supporting a teammate, watching film to learn what did or did not work, and using ideas from a more experienced coach of what would work better the next game which is a mental health lesson in resilience. This skill is directly applicable to many aspects of life as a person must persevere through things like the loss of a loved one, a job, or really anything that is challenging. Self-discipline is another great message that sports can teach by requiring a person to push through being tired and to keep trying to score no matter how physically flat they might feel at that moment. People who have never played a sport are statistically more likely to give up on whatever they may be attempting to achieve in life (MacKay). Everyone needs to be able to communicate and cooperate as a team in the workforce and in many parts of daily life as well. The added benefit of playing a sport is that exercise automatically results from regular exertion. This has so many benefits to the human body including physical, mental, emotional, and social. Regular exercise diminishes problems like depression, obesity, higher blood pressure, negative self-image, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and increases physicality, happiness, and lifelong workout habits.
Depression and obesity are already documented problems that are statistically on the rise and can be improved and sometimes avoided altogether by playing team sports, exercising, and doing daily activity. When the covid pandemic caused the shutdown of schools, stopping organized indoor sports and basic recess for younger students resulted in less physical activity showing today in youth and adults. The Aspen Project Play journal is a great resource to teach the long-lasting benefits and impact of sports and exercise through statistics and examples. Depression and obesity are already documented problems that are statistically on the rise and can be improved and sometimes avoided altogether by exercise and daily activity.
The risk factors of adults not exercising or playing a sport include obesity, mental health issues, type 2 diabetes, aging, and cardiovascular disease. It is a fact that you must burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Exercising with sport is the best way to burn equal or more calories than you’re consuming. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is significantly increased if a person is obese. According to the CDC definition, “Obesity is measured by Body Mass Index (BMI) which is calculated by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703. Example: Weight = 150 lbs, Height = 5’5″ (65″), Calculation: [150 ÷ (65)2] x 703 = 24.96” (About Adult BMI). This form of exercise is more fun than simply working out in the gym and still gives lots of cardiovascular endurance. The health of your heart is vital for survival and living a comfortable longer life. When you never exercise and eat poorly your arteries get clogged and lead to things like a heart attack. Exercise strengthens your heart and therefore circulation which raises oxygen levels in your blood reducing the risk of high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack (About Adult BMI).
Studies show that depression is directly correlated to a lack of movement especially if you just stay inside. An article from MedlinePlus states, “During exercise, your body releases chemicals that can improve your mood and make you feel more relaxed. This can help you deal with stress and reduce your risk of depression.” In the same article, they talk about how proteins and other chemicals that increase brain function are released after exercise. In a study from the University of Colorado Boulder, exercising extends life expectancy exponentially by keeping DNA intact. This is because the telomeres in the blood lengthen with regular exercise. These caps at the end of our chromosomes are responsible for aging and normally shorten as a person ages. When the telomere decreases, there is a higher incidence of disease and senescence which is aging on a cellular level. Another way exercise keeps DNA intact is the way it relieves stress which increases a person’s life span (Yale study). In this study, Yale researchers developed a way to track chemical changes in DNA and measure biological age to predict health and lifespan more than just looking at a person’s chronological age (Hathaway). Exercise reduces the health risk factors in adults, which all contribute to a healthier, happier, and longer life.
It is necessary to learn the lessons and lifestyle that sport and exercise provide and starting at a young age helps individuals learn a team sport when other young athletes are also learning it and helps develop a healthy routine. In a reliable study shared by the National Institute of Health, 36 research studies from 10 countries using data since the 1950s examined mental health, SMART Fitness, reduction in teenagers' self-destructive behavior, motivation to get in shape even as an individual, and to work out are some of the immediate benefits to teenagers and younger kids (John). By examining these factors, the lessons from playing a sport and using it as exercise, and having material to inform people in every age group about the benefits and risks of not exercising, a positive change can be made for humankind.
There currently are physical education programs in elementary schools, but increasing the health lessons about the value of exercising in the classroom for all ages would offer more value for continued health for adults. The statistics of disease that result from lack of exercise or playing in a team sport is crippling the rate of happiness and fitness as a country (John). Depression and obesity are already documented problems that are statistically on the rise and can be improved and sometimes avoided altogether by exercise and daily activity. When the covid pandemic caused the shutdown of schools, stopping organized indoor sports and basic recess for younger students, the results of less physical activity are showing today (The Aspen Project Play). Starting a sport when a person is young teaches a copious number of lessons and establishes a level of healthy habits that will continue on into adulthood. Exercise, working together with a team, learning from an adult coach who isn’t your parent, and establishing good habits are some of the lessons. According to research from Aspen Project Play, “youth who play sports are eight times as likely to be active at age 24 as adolescents who do not play sports”. This same article states that 77% of adults who are older than 30 years old still play sports played sports when in school. This demonstrates how influential starting sports is when you’re an adolescent. The research on how sports help develop and improve cognitive skills dispels the old stereotype of a dumb jock. Physical activity helps improve academic scores and includes standardized tests. (Aspen Project). These educational benefits extend to high school athletes who are more likely to go to college compared to non-athletes. Most high school athletes liked how playing sports made them feel more positive and were more important than earning a scholarship to play that sport in college. If a student goes to college to play their sport, college athletes have regular training workouts, practices, and tournaments in an established routine which all contributes to higher grades and a high graduation rate. There are even more studies available that focus on the social and psychological benefits of physical activity, especially in team sports. Part of the Healthy Sport Index study found structured sports “produces more concrete experiences associated with well-being” (Aspen). Parents can notice a difference in their child in improved physical health, improved mental health, enjoyment, self-confidence, and lessons in how to work together in a team. In a survey of high school students, the number one reason they played sports is for the fun of it, then exercise ranked second place in a national survey, (Project Play and Utah State University in 2020-2021). Communities of active adults have a positive impact on everyone. Arlington, Virginia, has been named “America’s Fittest City” in the annual American Fitness Index® rankings published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Elevance Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Elevance Health.
“Playing different sports and being on a team gave me a sense of belonging which was one reason I personally like team sports,” Josh Norman, CEC Parker English 1102 student and USA National Development Team member for indoor and beach volleyball. He continued with, “Learning how to identify and solve problems is the basis of all sports along with many more lessons applicable to real life. The pain of working hard at anything always outweighs the pain of regret or being unhealthy. By taking the time to play a sport for an hour a day, you will consistently improve each day and eventually your life.”
There is a dire need for sport and exercise. Aside from the lessons of perseverance, self-discipline, mental toughness, and teamwork the physical measurable ways of sport and exercise show in a person’s physical strength, endurance, blood pressure, and mental health. One way to increase awareness and participation among Americans is to offer more education and expand the existing physical education plans that are already used in schools. Other church and league organizations can build awareness by advertising locally, and getting local participation for students and also adults and the elderly. The benefits of having a healthy body and reducing feelings of depression in people increase both physical and mental health. These habits carry on into adulthood and can diminish the likelihood of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, stress, and mental health and increase lifespan on a cellular level. Not only does exercise and playing a sport affect health, but also has many intangible benefits starting during the school years. These include learning to work hard through pain, working with different personalities of people, and developing self-discipline and healthy habits which contribute to better grades and goal setting towards attending college. These lessons also help working adults in office and business settings (MacKay). Establishing a consistent exercise routine ultimately increases physical health during youth and stronger over 65 year olds. Team sports and exercise are always important, but the benefits as a person ages ultimately leads individuals to live a longer, healthier, and happier life.
“ACSM American Fitness Index Rankings.” American Fitness Index, 12 July 2022, americanfitnessindex.org/rankings/.
“About Adult BMI.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 June 2022, cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html#Interpreted.
“Benefits of Physical Activity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 June 2022, cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm.
Hathaway, Bill. “Stress Makes Life's Clock Tick Faster - Chilling out Slows It Down.” YaleNews, 14 Dec. 2021, news.yale.edu/2021/12/06/stress-makes-lifes-clock-tick-faster-chilling-out-slows-it-down.
John, Steven. “The Physical and Mental Health Benefit of Team Sports.” Goalcast, 17 June 2022, goalcast.com/benefits-of-team-sports/.
MacKay, Harvey. “Lessons Learned from Sports, Such as Not Quitting, Can Help in Business, Too.” Star Tribune, Star Tribune, 30 Aug. 2020, startribune.com/lessons-learned-from-sports-such-as-not-quitting-can-help-in-business-too/572255622/.
MedlinePlus [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); [updated 2020 Jun 24]. Benefits of Exercise, medlineplus.gov/benefitsofexercise.html
“Youth Sports Facts: Benefits.” Edited by Aspen Project, The Aspen Institute Project Play, aspenprojectplay.org/youth-sports/facts/benefits.