Ohio State encourages participation in sports, citing mental health benefits
Ohio State mental health professionals have focused on studies that show how mental health can be improved through sports participation.
According to a press release from the Office of Student Life, a 2021 report collected by the American College Health Association said that 75% of respondents suffered from moderate to severe psychological distress. Demands for mental health services at universities have increased in recent years, triggering an analysis of past studies, the statement said.
“There are many different theories as to why mental health has declined over the years, such as the increased use of technology, the deterioration of our eating habits, as evidenced by increased rates of obesity in the general population, and other people think it’s due to a decrease in physical activity,” said Counseling and Counseling Service psychiatrist Dr. Ryan Patel.
Playing sports could help prevent drug use and mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, and improve social health, Patel said.
“If you play a sport, whether it’s an individual sport or a team sport, then often one of the things that happens is that we feel less stressed,” Patel said. “Because we feel less stressed, students might be less likely to engage in other ways of dealing with stress that could be harmful.”
Freshman Ohio State men’s lacrosse midfielder Aidan Kenley says being able to participate in his sport has allowed him to deal with stress in a healthy way.
“As long as I’ve dealt with anxiety in my life, I can say working out and playing sports is my favorite way to relax mentally,” Kenley said. “I would say I feel flushed of any negative emotions after a workout, lift, etc. I pride myself on trying to deal with anxiety in a positive way, like being active.”
Patel said factors, such as prioritizing nutrition and getting enough rest, are positive steps for physical and mental well-being.
The pressure to perform well in Division I sports can weigh heavily on student-athletes and cause greater stress on mental health compared to those involved in recreational sports, Patel said.
“An individual student participating in a recreational athletic activity can take a break whenever they choose,” Patel said. “There is an off-season where they have nothing to do at all, but for many Division I sports the sports season is also very structured in terms of practices, practices and games. Their off-season is also very structured.
Patel said while some student-athletes can thrive under pressure, some struggle with it.
Kenley said he has experienced many positive impacts through the sport. He said playing lacrosse has always been a coping mechanism for him, even though it can be exhausting.
“I like having a very structured schedule to follow with little downtime to stay focused on what’s most important to me,” Kenley said. “I find that when I have too much time, I often get lazy or end up overthinking little things that mentally distract me from what I should be doing.”
On campus, there are many ways to get involved in sports, such as taking a course through the Sports fitness and health programregistering for a intramural team or simply practice a sport regularly with friends.
In addition to physical education opportunities, many resources are available for students struggling with mental health issues on campus at Ohio State. Some resources include:
Other Ohio State mental health resources can be found at Advice and consultation service website.