Young Ambassadors

YA Focus: mental health

How sport and physical activity can reduce stress and anxiety

Four members of the Young Ambassadors Conference Delivery Team tell Sport First why they think sport and physical activity can be so beneficial to the mental health of people who take part.

Alistair, 18, Millburn Academy

Mental health issues are a growing concern within schools across Scotland and as someone who has been transformed by sport and exercise, I feel strongly that it can play a key role in reducing mental health issues in schools.

Being mentally healthy means we feel good about ourselves, can manage our emotions and maintain relationships and friendships with others.

Within schools, our main pressure are our exams. They can be very scary and they can make you feel anxious and upset, especially when you don’t do as well as you hoped. Sport can slightly lift this burden off our shoulders. It can boost our self-esteem, be used to free us from all the stress we put ourselves under, improve our sleeping habits, boost our confidence and it can even improve your concentration.

Sports can also take you away from harmful distractions such as phones and laptops, and help you lead a healthy lifestyle. Give it a go!

Eilidh, 16, Arran High School

Mental health can often be stigmatised to being 'crazy' or 'disturbed’. Mental health issues aren’t a conversation we find easy to talk about, especially in schools. Just like other organs the brain can get ill. So what can sport do? 

Mental health is a labyrinth which is different for every individual - sport allows a place of escape. It creates an endorphin-powered high which can improve your mood, energy and focus. It provides a space to combat the isolation of mental illness by connecting socially with people – improving self-esteem while doing so.

The benefits are endless, instant and long-lasting. I am not claiming that sport is the cure to all mental health issues - it's not. But it is a building block. It creates an opportunity to have the conversation, to reach out to others and create a significant positive impact on young people.

Niamh, 17, Largs Academy

I believe sport plays a massive part in mental wellbeing. Having that opportunity to be away from everything else going on in your life and being able to just focus and enjoy an activity really helps.

It is so important that schools provide support in this area. I know myself a simple PE lesson is all it takes to reduce the pressures of exams and course work, while balancing it all with my social life.

I honestly believe there is a sport or form of physical activity that everyone can enjoy or take part in. PE in school has played a massive part in my life, especially this year. I know I couldn’t have gone through this school year without it.

Schools do an amazing job in promoting sport and offering clubs within the school, but I think we can always strive for better.

Lauren, 15, Nairn Academy

I really struggled with peer pressure in school with my peers. I was regarded as different because I do sports leadership and coaching. This made me feel really low as I felt that I was unlike others and that what I was doing didn't make me fit in.

When doing my taekwondo or any other sport I love, I feel like myself and a huge weight is lifted off my shoulders. Being where you love and doing what you love makes you feel free and that you can achieve anything!

Sometimes you need to push through hard times and do what really makes you you.

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