by Nelson Cumminsky
When people think of a student athlete, they think a fit person who is also receiving an education. What a lot of people don’t know is that many student athletes are not well. Being well is not a matter of having abs or not; it is actually a combination of being physically, mentally, and socially healthy.
Being physically healthy isn’t the only component of overall health, but it is still necessary for overall wellness. To be physically healthy, you have to do a couple things. Exercising is a big part of it. According to mayoclinic.org, you only need 150 minutes of exercise per week. That’s just 20 minutes per day. Anyone can do a moderate aerobic exercise for 20 minutes out of a day.
The physical effects of school sports can also be detrimental to a student athlete’s health. Students may get minor injuries that turn into major ones due to shame, ignorance, or maybe even being pushed too far in practice. While pushing yourself physically isn’t a bad thing in of itself, it’s not good for your wellness if you are injured.
There are other important factors for wellness. One of these factors is social health. As written onstudy.com, “Social health involves your ability to form satisfying interpersonal relationships with others. It also relates to your ability to adapt comfortably to different social situations and act appropriately in a variety of settings.” Sometimes student athletes have a hard time performing the tasks in the prior quote. There are many ways of attaining social health. Many people don’t think of it in those terms, but sports can be a good way to create relationships with people that you wouldn’t otherwise meet. Many people who play sports say that their team becomes almost like a family. They even join sports for the sole purpose of being more socially active.
The downside is that sports can also be negative for social health. Competition plays a part of this. If a person isn’t as strong as others in a sport, they may be ostracized for that lack of athletic ability. This could result in that individual isolating themselves within the sport or even quitting that sport because they feel that they “don’t belong.” This can be detrimental to that person’s social wellness because they may not feel like they can talk to people at all without being judged. Competition can also help kids get better because they would not work as hard if there was no one gong against them.
The third domain of wellness is mental health. Exercising can have a negative effect on health if it takes time out of doing other more pertinent activities like schoolwork, nourishment, or sleeping. After a long practice, an athlete would enjoy nothing more than some food and a bed. Unfortunately, students academics requires them to prepare for the next school day by studying, doing homework, and writing papers. This causes student athletes to not get the appropriate amount of sleep required. According to an article written by Jessica Lahey on theatlantic.com, this reduction in sleep can lead to higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation.
If an athlete performs the appropriate amount of exercise and budgets their time wisely, exercise can affect the student athlete’s mind in a completely different way. According to an article on mentalhelp.net by Christy Matta, M.A., there are multiple positive effects on one’s mental health that are products of physical exercise. In addition to helping with depression, studies have shown that sports also decrease anxiety levels. Exercise has also been linked to better moods. Exercise can also help with the reality of addiction. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which gives you a natural high and the athlete gets the same feeling that they would get from substance abuse. With more and more teens abusing substances, exercise may be their way out. This way teens will stop damaging their bodies with substances and instead put their energy toward productive activities. So, if you’re feeling anxious, “no sweat,” join a team of some sort.
Sports can be good for a student if they budget their time wisely. In fact, sports may help students learn how to budget their time which is an important skill to have later in life. With the right mix of rest and activity, a student athlete can go farther in life than someone who chose to be a couch potato all year after school.
Graphic: From thedp.com: “Some Athletes Work hard, Play Hard.”