By Jonathan D. Carroll, M.A.
Carroll Educational Group, Inc.
Athletics and physical activities provide an individual with many rewards. This is not exactly new news, but I have found that it also helps with one area that people seem to forget about…mental wellness.
In the October 2000 issue of The Physician and Sports Medicine, Dr. Kevin R. Fontaine found that depression, anxiety, panic disorder,
energy/vigor, self-esteem, and positive affect were all improved with physical activity. His study also found that physical activity is underused as a remedy for these disorders.
When I was coaching athletics, I was always most excited about players on my team that were able to be successful in both academics and athletics. One of my teams (sixth grade girls basketball) had 11 out of 13 players on the honor roll and with even a few members in advanced classes. In addition, the team was successful on the court and full of wonderful citizens.
Being involved with athletics or any other activity helps students stay on track. Along with the idea of eligibility, it teaches students at a young age to juggle responsibilities both in the classroom and outside of the learning environment. Understanding the importance of balancing life activities is what allows individuals to be successful.
This not only applies to younger individuals, but adults. Many adults do not participate in enough physical activities. While we are all crunched for time these days, there is time in the day where physical activity can be squeezed out. For example, walk during one’s lunch hour or do calisthenics right before bed. This will allow one to stay active even when it does not seem possible.
From my own personal experiences, I have found that individuals with ADD/ADHD benefit from physical activity. This helps get the mind going while burning off excess energy. Most people will see a difference in productivity as a result of increasing physical activity.
Let me take this a different direction, not only does this help with mental well-being, but it can also help with goal setting. For example, I recently stepped onto a scale and did not like the number staring back at me. I decided it was time to increase physical activity. So now I had two things I had to do. First, I had to decide how much weight I wanted to lose. That meant picking a realistic number and sticking to it. It is very easy to say that one wants to lose weight, but it is much easier to create an actual target. This could be a physical number, clothing size, or the good old belt scale. The second was creating a game plan for achieving my weight loss goal. That included the specific activities, location, time, and other aspects to my plan.
Well, I began on this journey over the summer and to this day, have almost reached my target weight. I picked a work-out plan and basically stuck with it (minus time for a minor knee injury). In addition, as I continued increasing my work-out time, I also felt sharper. Plus, it was my time. No one could take that away from me while I was working out. I would listen to my iPod and escape into my own world.
I would encourage parents to stress this to children. Allow them the opportunity to increase physical activity as well as setting up a plan. For adults, try to follow my example. It does not only have to be weight, it could be getting stronger or increasing endurance for running.