Three Ways Sports Can Help Fight Depression


Taking part in sports can help you combat feelings of depression.


Of all the mental illnesses in the world, depression is the most frequently diagnosed. Depression is tricky, because it isn’t constrained to one age group, race, gender, or ethnicity. In the United States, 26 percent of adults will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. People from all walks of life suffer from depression, and if left untreated it can lead to insomnia, weight fluctuations, weakened immunity, and even risk of heart attack or suicide.

READ MORE: How to Help a Suicidal Friend

In most cases, if you are diagnosed with depression, a doctor will prescribe you some anti-depressants or psychotherapy, but there has been promising research that shows sports and physical activity can help create the same neurophysiological changes as prescription drugs. Here are three ways sports can help fight or lessen the effects of depression.

Chemical: Sports and physical activities affect the brain’s ability to absorb serotonin, and release chemicals called endorphins, which trigger positive feelings in the body. Physical activity also leads to a reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, to create a similar effect to psychotropic drugs.

Social: Even though you may not want to be around anyone when you are depressed, taking part in sports can help create an active social group for you to rely on when you are depressed. One of my favorite things about sports is the camaraderie of building a team, which can support you whether on, or off the field.

Mental: Typically, when you are depressed you don’t want to get off the couch. However, playing sports often requires that you commit to showing up to games, which not only gets you up and off the couch, but also releases chemicals like endorphins (as previously mentioned) that help elevate your mood and combat depression. Keeping your commitments even despite depression can also do wonders for your mental state.

I know that to a person suffering from depression, all of this can sound like a horrible idea. There are many different ways to treat depression however, so my suggestion is to try any and every possible solution until you find the one that works for you.



Published by karenmsutton

HSS Orthopaedic surgeon in sports medicine | Mother of 4 amazing children | Team physician for USA Women's Lacrosse | ACL injury expert

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