Why sport and health are so interconnected?

Regular and controlled sports practice not only benefits our physical condition; it also provides a mental balance that influences the perception of overall well-being. Linked to each person’s physical condition is their mental balance, whose benefits generated by sporting activity are “not seen, not touched”, as sport psychologist Pablo del Río points out.

The greater visibility of physical results through muscular improvement causes sport to relate to young people. However, psychological results make exercise a necessary activity at any age. Getting up from the sofa and starting to exercise puts an end to a sedentary practice that can degenerate into coronary or neurovascular diseases. This first step means for the new athlete “an important change in lifestyle, a mental change,” according to Dr. Miguel del Valle Soto, professor at the University of Oviedo.

We need to take care of ourselves

Although the repercussion of physical exercise on mental health is still being studied, sport acts on the central nervous system, stabilising certain proteins and avoiding the appearance of illnesses produced by the rupture “of the balance of these substances”, states Miguel del Valle. Among the endogenous proteins generated by physical exercise, Pablo del Río highlights endorphins as neurotransmitters “that are capable of generating a feeling of relaxation and happiness”.

Therefore, improving mental balance through physical activity is not a subjective sensation but an objective physiological process. The importance of sport in mental health is related to the prevention and treatment of psychological imbalances. The psychic benefits of sport are at least these six:

  1. Increased self-esteem
  2. Increases self-confidence
  3. Improves memory
  4. Greater emotional stability
  5. Better intellectual functioning
  6. Greater independence

According to the opinion of Professor Miguel del Valle, these benefits turn physical exercise into an activity that should be prescribed in pathologies such as anxiety, depression or sleep disorders.

“In any mental illness, and practically in any illness, physical exercise is a key piece,” he says. The practice of sports prevents physical pathologies due to the activation of the immune system and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, since it influences a better concentration. In the treatment of diseases, sport allows to balance the substances whose imbalance has generated the disease, acting in a similar way to a drug. Physical activity has a direct influence on concentration and, therefore, on the academic performance of adolescents.

This is the conclusion of the study carried out by the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and the University of Cadiz on more than 2,000 children between the ages of 6 and 18. “A better physical condition makes the concentration in class higher”, says Irene Esteban-Cornejo, from the UAM. As she explains, the procedure by which this phenomenon occurs is because physical activity influences muscle strength, cardiorespiratory capacity and motor ability, which intervenes in “cognitive transmission, working memory and cognitive flexibility”, improving academic performance.