Physical activity has always been linked with positive outcomes. Now, new research suggests that kids who play sports consistently from a young age will have better long-term mental health.
The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, which covered eight years, provided the data for the study, which was directed by Associate Professor Asad Khan of the University of Queensland.
Khan states that consistent engagement in athletics beginning in infancy is linked to excellent teenage mental health.
He continued by saying that their study compared the advantages of individual sports like karate, tennis, and gymnastics to team sports like football, cricket, or netball.
Regardless of the sport, the team discovered a link between sports and mental health, although kids who played on a team benefited more.
Khan goes on to say that this could be because of the social elements present, such as being surrounded by encouraging peers, having the opportunity to make friends, and collaborating to achieve a common objective.
Around 14% of Australian children between the ages of four and 11 have a mental condition, with males typically being more afflicted than girls, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
According to the study, children who internalize their emotions and struggle to interact with their classmates considerably benefit from participating in team sports.
“At ages six and seven, around 59 percent of boys participated in team sports, compared to only 26 percent of girls," added Khan.
The research team discovered that boys participating in team sports had fewer psychosocial challenges and improved health-related quality of life. In contrast, the advantages of team sport involvement were less pronounced for girls.
"Some possible reasons to explain girls’ lower level of team sports involvement could include lack of self-belief and confidence in sporting ability, or the common stereotype of team sports being a male-dominant activity."- University of Queensland Research Team
It may also be because there are few opportunities for girls to play team sports or because there are few different sports available in schools and extracurricular activities. Khan concludes that the study will help guide more research into why young girls are less likely to play team sports and measures to encourage kids to participate in sports.
For now, there doesn't seem to be much harm in the link between sports and mental health and in fact, there seems to be a benefit in encouraging your kids to kick around a ball.