“Physical activity is vital to the holistic development of young people, fostering their physical, social and emotional health. 

The benefits of sport reach beyond the impact on physical well-being and the value of the educational, benefits of sport should not be under-estimated” United Nation

Contrary to many myths that sports and physical activities deter academic performance, significant research available today points to the importance and positive impact that sports and physical activities have on overall wellbeing and academic performance of children. However, outcome of participation in sports and physical activities greatly depend on the manner in which the programmes are planned and implemented. It is for these reasons that the UNESCO and WHO encourage promotion of quality sports and physical activities to facilitate holistic growth and development of children.

The following are some of the benefits that quality sports and physical activities have on children and youth development:

1. Enhance Health and Fitness

Sports and health are profoundly connected. Regular sports and physical activity can help children keep their hearts and lungs strong and healthy, become more flexible, develop strong bones, maintain a healthy body weight, and lower the risk of several diseases and health problems. It will also improve their coordination and balance, which are essential not only as children but also as adults to lead a healthy life. Initiating an active and healthy lifestyle at an early stage of childhood is crucial for addressing numerous non-communicable diseases and making these healthy habits sustainable throughout their lives.

2. Boost Self-confidence and Self-esteem

Engaging in sports and physical activity not only improves a child’s physical health but also enhances their mental well-being. Studies indicate that playing sports can significantly boost a child’s self-confidence and self-esteem. By participating in various sports activities, children are exposed to different environments and competitions, allowing for personal growth and the development of coping mechanisms. Better self-confidence and self-esteem can also positively impact a child’s academic performance and overall mental health, providing a strong foundation for future success.

 3. Improve Emotional Wellbeing 

Research shows that students who participate in sports and physical activity have favorable mental health compared to inactive students. The physical stimulation through sports releases happiness hormones (beta-endorphins) which reduces levels of anxiety, stress and depression and helps them to stay emotionally fit and cheerful which are vital for effective learning.  

4. Enhance sociability and solidarity

Learning to be in the playground is learning to be sociable. Participating in sports and physical activity provides students with new opportunities to interact and engage with one another – promoting friendships and solidarity.  Sports competitions need a very good coordination, teamwork and cooperation to succeed. These skills will help students when they grow up. In addition to participating in individual sports, team sports improve their role as a team player which helps them a lot when it comes to group projects both in academics and in life. Studies also show that students who participate in sports are more likely to be active participants in their communities and engagement with social activities.

5. Perform better in academics

There is a common perception that devoting curriculum time to sports and physical activities will negatively impact students’ academic performance. On contrary, the research continues to demonstrate that participation in sports and physical activity, both inside and outside the classroom, positively impacts students’ academic performance and efficiency. Simple as that, if students are healthier and happier, they continue to attend the school regularly. Studies have shown a positive connection between sports activities and improved memory and cognitive functions of the brain. Being physically active helps them build their ability to concentrate and focus in class. The skills such as coordination, multitasking and situational awareness also enhances their academic skills.

6. Enhanced discipline

Discipline is an essential foundation for any sports. Sports demand children to follow rules, practice restraint and obey officials, team-mates and opponents. Taking part in sports which is of their passion gives them no option than to obey and self-discipline. As a result, they would realize the importance of self-discipline and also carry such desirable behaviors in the classroom and in life.  

 7. Enhance Perseverance

Participation in sports requires perseverance and dedication, as it involves experiencing both highs and lows during practice sessions and matches. By learning to push through and persevere during challenging times, children become more resilient and better equipped to face bigger adversities in the future. Practicing perseverance at a young age also helps develop better coping and critical thinking skills, further contributing to their personal growth and success in various aspects of life.

8. Develop good life long habits

School days are the time when students tend to develop good or bad habits. However, keeping them engaged in sports and academics gives them less free time to develop disruptive habits. The love and passion for sports would help students develop good eating habits and make exercise a part of their routine to stay fit, which they may carry forward into adulthood. Sports also promote a healthy lifestyle by discouraging the use of drugs and alcohol and encouraging discipline and ethical practices. By cultivating these good habits, students are likely to lead healthier and more successful lives.

9. Improved sleep

Having a peaceful and adequate sleep is crucial for a child’s growth and development. Sleep is not an option but a biological need. Studies have shown a positive correlation between participation in sports activities and improved sleep. Getting proper rest helps students focus better, avoid illnesses, and maintain good health, which are essential for academic success.

10. Improvement in academic performance 

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that indicates a positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance in children. Exercise has been found to improve cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and information processing speed, which are all critical for academic success. When a child exercises, it increases blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, which enhances brain function by promoting the growth of new brain cells and improving neural connectivity. Exercise also stimulates the release of endorphins, which reduce stress and anxiety, leading to a better mood and improved mental health. This can enhance the child’s ability to focus, learn, and perform better academically.

 11. Career and passion

 There is nothing as sweet as doing what one is talented in. Pursuing one’s talents and interests can be a rewarding experience, and being an athlete in school can provide opportunities for both personal enjoyment and career prospects in the sports industry. A talented student athlete can pursue a career as a national or international athlete, coach, trainer, or any other sports-related occupation based on their skills, talent, and interests. With the sports industry constantly expanding, there are many avenues for success and fulfillment.

Contributed by Nima Gyeltshen, Youth Sport Administrator