Psychological Benefits of Being Outdoors

The pandemic has been a tough time for kids, with schools and organized sports shut down for month after month. Lack of regular interaction with other children can have a detrimental effect. According to the CDC, social distancing and quarantine can lead to stress, anxiety, and the worsening of existing mental conditions. Luckily, more and more states are easing their Covid restrictions, so let’s reexamine the importance of young athletes getting outside and staying active.

Being outdoors can have several therapeutic benefits. According to the University of North Carolina Health Department, anxiety and depression can be reduced by just walking in nature. Things as simple as going on a walk or throwing the ball around can go a long way towards improving both physical and mental health.

While we might think of the physical benefits of exercising and playing sports, such as increased motor skills, lower obesity and diabetes rates, etc., there are also several psychological benefits associated with maintaining an active lifestyle. According to the Psychic Times, an hour of physical activity a day leads to increased focus, more consistent sleep patterns, and increased ability to balance emotions and stress. A full hour everyday might not be possible for everyone, but it acts as a good benchmark. Physical activity is a fun way to spend time as well. In addition to serving as a diversion from schoolwork and other responsibilities, exercising releases endorphins in our brains, which are chemicals that help us relieve pain and stress. Staying active is also a good way to maintain a positive body image, especially in girls.

In addition to the individual psychological benefits to playing sports, there are several social benefits that come with team sports and group activities. I personally have sports to thank for a lot of my closest friends and fondest memories. I was a really shy kid, and playing team sports exposed me to new people with common interests. Sports teams can offer a strong sense of belonging and camaraderie, which is important for developing strong self esteem. And after spending weeks and weeks isolated indoors it is even more important for kids to get back out and interact with their peers and take advantage of the benefits of playing sports together. Kids need to get comfortable with making friends and interacting with kids their own age, and playing sports is a great vessel to do that. Team sports can also teach important life lessons, such as the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship, and the reality that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains. Regardless of level, youth organized sports can offer several important benefits, especially at this time, when kids need a healthy outlet to offset months of isolation and lack of physical activity.