Who has never felt mentally soothed after a sports session?
The answer is probably nobody.
Indeed, the practice of sport provides many benefits on the brain and helps to calm the mind of anxiety and depressive disorders. We wanted to question ourselves about the different processes leading to the benefits of physical activity on mental health, whether they act on hormones, the nervous system, our organs or the cognitive system.
The different hormonal secretions thanks to sport
In people subject to stress, there is generally a hormonal imbalance favoring the release of cortisol: the stress hormone, and a deficit of serotonin, adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine, the hormones associated with well-being.To be more specific, endorphin is a hormone with a structure similar to that of morphine. It is released by the brain after about 30min of effort at a medium pace. Its rate is therefore significantly higher than normal after sports training. Dopamine, on the other hand, is qualified as a pleasure hormone since it makes you feel productive, less tired and satisfied with yourself. In addition, more tryptophan is released in the brain. It is an amino acid used in the production of serotonin, also associated with well-being. Finally, adrenaline and noradrenaline are, for their part, hormones similar to those of stress. They place the body in the best conditions to produce an effort and therefore allow it to get into action.
Thus, practicing physical activity regularly increases the natural secretion of these different hormones. In addition, sport causes a decrease in cortisol which allows a considerable improvement in the psychological state.
The functioning of the nervous system
At the start of a session of physical activity, the sympathetic nervous system intervenes and causes a discharge of adrenaline to be secreted, which makes it possible to increase the basal metabolism to meet the body's demand.
At the end of the activity, it is the parasympathetic nervous system which acts by slowing down the metabolism so that the body regains its calm.
Sevran-Schreiber, author of Healing: Stress, Anxiety and Depression Without Drugs or Psychoanalysis , states that: "The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are always in opposition, the more we stimulate the parasympathetic, the more it strengthens, like a muscle that develops, and it simply blocks the manifestations of anxiety". As a result, a feeling of psychic relief is felt after physical exertion.
The effects of sport on our organs
Physical activity also affects our organs, including the heart and lungs. It decreases heart rate, increases lung capacity and improves cardiorespiratory capacity.
We often notice an increase in heart rate, greater than 90bpm, due to stress, especially during anxiety attacks. Sport to regulate the heart rate is very effective in reducing these negative effects.
In addition, breathing is sometimes a subject to be addressed for people prone to anxiety disorders. It can block or no longer be natural as soon as the first symptoms of stress appear. Physical activity can work on breathing and calm the breath so that it is more regular and thus reduce the symptoms of many anxiety disorders.
The increase in cognitive performance
Sport improves the vascularization of the brain, leading to the growth of neurons. It therefore helps to increase one's intellectual capacities.
According to a survey unveiled in the journal Neurology in 2019, researchers have found an improvement in executive functions in sports people of all ages. They show more efficiency in terms of organization and reasoning, for example. To complete the study, the participants had scans revealing greater cortical thickness, indicating that physical exercise contributes to good mental health.
In addition, according to another study published last year in the journal Nature Metabolism, irisin, a hormone secreted by muscles during exercise, is responsible for cognitive stimulation. It can therefore be effective in preventing the dementia of diseases resulting from brain aging such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's since it protects against neuroinflammation.
Better self-esteemThe practice of sport allows you to increase your self-esteem through the feeling of recharging your batteries, of allowing yourself time to play sports, of taking time for yourself. But satisfaction can also come from the feeling of progress, of achieving one's goals. This second motivation tends towards the cult of performance that we discussed at length in our article Sport, high level and the risks to mental health . But in moderation, it leads to an increase in self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment, both of which are essential for well-being.
At Elemat, we play sports because it makes us feel good, it allows us to maintain our body and especially our head. Whether it's the pleasure of sport or taking care of your body, the two are intimately linked. Elemat perpetuates the benefits of exercise in a wellness routine through our efficiency and sensoriality. Take care of your body to take it further!