Sporty FUNnies

Do Children Involved in Sports Have Better Mental Health?

Feb 28, 2011 | By Rachel Nelson
Physical activity through sports can enhance your child’s physical health, but sports also can have a positive effect on her mental health. Sports participation helps children have a positive outlook and develop life skills such as learning to deal with loss and disappointment. These mental health benefits can be especially helpful during the challenging years of adolescence.
Body Image
As your child grows and her body changes, confidence and self-esteem stem from a positive body image. Regular sports participation helps your child maintain a healthy weight and see her body as a tool to succeed on the playing field. A good body image boosts mental health because your child is less likely to experience feelings of low self-worth. Having a strong, healthy body helps your child feel better and experience less fatigue than overweight children.

Children who participate in sports must learn to work with other teammates to achieve a goal. Through sports, a child is able to build confidence in his abilities. Winning does not have to be the only confidence builder. A successful pass or assist during a game also boosts confidence. School teams frequently play in front of observers, and it requires confidence to get on the field and perform in public.

Exercise and sports participation have been shown to have anti-depressant effects. Children who play sports generally report having a positive outlook on life. Improved self-esteem can benefit a child not only when playing a sport, but also in academic performance. Children can enhance their self-esteem through a loss at a sporting event, too, because they must learn to still believe in themselves even in defeat. The lessons of good sportsmanship, such as showing respect for others, can help a child establish a positive self-esteem.

Warning Signs
While there are many positive mental health benefits for children who play sports, some drawbacks can arise. Putting too much pressure on a child can cause him to become stressed or anxious when it is time to play a sport. If your child frequently reports illness to avoid practicing, seems worried or preoccupied about going to practice or a game or puts himself down after a loss, these could be signs of too much pressure related to sports performance. While parents and coaches should encourage a child, too-high expectations can negatively affect his mental health.

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry; Children and Sports; June 2001
Arizona State University; The Influence of Exercise on Mental Health; Daniel M. Landers
Mental Health America: Promoting Children’s Mental Health: Nov. 16, 2006
University of Florida; Benefits of Sports for Kids; Diana Converse
Article reviewed by Paula Martinac Last updated on: Feb 28, 2011

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