Updated on: Sunday, August 29, 2021, 09:31 AM IST

National Sports Day 2021: The many benefits of playing sports

Embracing a lifestyle of sports activity along with exercise is a wonderful way to boost your health and well-being

For more than five decades, the scientific community has been working towards evidence on the positive effects of sports and physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical activity can help children and adolescents improve cardiorespiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, control weight, reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and reduce the risk of developing health conditions. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that one in four patients visiting a health centre has at least one mental, neurological or behavioural disorder, but most are neither diagnosed nor treated.  Several studies have shown that exercise may play a therapeutic role in addressing these disorders and positively influences depression.

Physical self-worth and self-perception, including body image, have been linked to improved self-esteem. This is also relevant for children. Children who play sports have lower body fat, stronger muscles and bones, and increased cardiovascular fitness. They have a much lower risk of becoming overweight or obese and can create a foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Positive health outcomes are one of the significant benefits of youth sports participation.

The pros of exercising:

Many athletes do better academically: Playing a sport requires a lot of time and energy. Some people may think this would distract student-athletes from schoolwork. Sports require memorisation, repetition and learning — skill-sets that are directly relevant to classwork.

Sport teaches teamwork and problem-solving skills: Fighting for a common goal with a group of players and coaches teaches you how to build teamwork and effectively communicate to solve problems.

Physical health benefits of sports: Clearly, sports can help you reach your fitness goals and maintain a healthy weight. However, they also encourage healthy decision-making, such as not smoking and drinking.

Sports boost self-esteem: Watching your hard work pay off and achieving your goals develops self-confidence.

Reduce pressure and stress with sports: Exercising is a natural way to loosen up and let go of stress.  

 Here is how exercise and sports promote good health:

  • Improved cardiovascular health

  • Lowers risk of Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes

  • Helps manage weight

  • Reduced blood pressure

  • Enhanced aerobic fitness

  • Improved muscular strength and endurance

  • Improved joint flexibility and range of motion 

  • Stress relief

  • Lowers risk of certain types of cancer 

  • Controls cholesterol

  • Wards off osteoporosis

  • Strengthens immune system

  • Improved sleep

  • Mental health benefits

  • Prolonged life

Sports activities suitable to stay healthy: Walking (recreational), fitness or gym, running or athletics, swimming, cycling, Basketball/ Tennis, Football, etc. We might not get to engage in a few of the activities mentioned above in the pandemic, but some can be done, such as walking in isolation or cycling. One of the best practices that people engaging in sports activities must follow is a stringent diet.

The following should be included in your daily diet:

  • Fruits

  • Oatmeal

  • Starchy vegetables (sweet/white potatoes, squash)

  • Non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, leafy greens)

  • Whole grain bread or crackers

  • High-fiber, non-sugary cereals

Foods sports persons must avoid:

  • Sports drinks

  • Soda

  • Protein and energy bars

  • Saturated and trans fat

  • Limit carbohydrates

  • Limit caffeine

  • Alcohol

(The writer, Dr. Manjeet Singh Arora is a senior general physician at Fortis Hospital, Mulund)

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Published on: Sunday, August 29, 2021, 09:31 AM IST