3. Sport and Health

A survey of the social functions of sport, such as the one above, clearly shows that one of the most important functions is the preservation and improvement of health, the prevention of various diseases at both individual and community levels. In the following chapter we intend to take a closer look at these interrelations between sport and the different dimensions of health, healthy behaviour.

3.1. The Effects of Sport on Physical Health

The lack of physical activity has led to the rapid spread of cardio-vascular, respiratory and tumorous diseases, in several of which Hungary is now among the first in Europe (Gál 2008). Doing sports on a regular basis reduces the amounts of inflammation and coagulation bio-markers in the individual, and improves the efficiency and structure of their heart muscles and artery walls (Apor 2012). One of the most efficient non-medicinal treatments of high blood pressure, blood glycose and high body fat is regular physical activity. Physical activity improves blood supply, and has a benevolant effect on the respiratory, circulatory organs and the motoric muscles. Sport therefore has an enormous importance in the prevention, not only in the treatment of diseases (Barna 2012; Tabák 2012).

A number of different factors contribute to the epidemy-like spreading of obesity: lack of physical activity, and thus a lower level of the use of energy, unhealthy nutrition (fast food restaurants, high salt- and fat intake, high sugar beverages) (Martos 2012). Physical activity is a considerable preventive factor of obesity, and reduces the body weight. The life expectancy of the so-called ”fit-fat” people, that is, those who are overweight but physically active is much better than that of the ”non fit-fat” people, that is, those are overweight but physically not active (Apor, 2009; Apor-Rádi, 2010). We therefore see that the positive effects of regular physical activity on the human body are complex, and has to be made an indispensable part of our lives.

An inactive way of life carries the risk of a number of diseases. Sport, through its cholesterol-reducing effect, is successfully applicable to prevent osteoporosis, diabetes, coronary and circulatory diseases and obesity. Regular sport increases muscle mass and power, well-being, circulatory functions and reduces blood pressure, thus contributing to the preservation of health and the prevention of the occurence of a number of diseases (Apor, Rádi 2010).

3.2 The Effects of Sports on Mental Health and Social Well-being

Nothing proves the positive effects of sports on mental state better than the fact that various definitions of sport themselves refer to it as an activity that may also be directed to improvement of mental fitness. During physical activity, biological processes begin in the body that promote intellectual freshness, and in this way have a positive effect on learning processes and the accomplishment of various creative works (Keresztes 2007, Mikulán et al. 2010, Pikó, Keresztes 2007). A further advantage of doing sports is that it makes the individual purposeful. It may have a positive effect on the image that we have about ourselves, it may increase our self-confidence if we are able to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves. An increasing performance may bring about new and new objectives, and it eventually be a routine in our lives. When we are basically satisfied with ourselves, and we have objectives, we are protected against depression, a sense of failure and solitude.

McAuley and his colleagues (2000), as well as Morgan and Bath (1998) examined the effects of sport and physical activity to the physical and mental well-being of elderly people, who are the highest risk group from the aspects of health. While the first researcher found the positive effects of sport the most powerful on the social well-being of the subjects (social relations, a sense of belonging to a community), the latter two emphasized the benevolant effect of sport on the mental well-being of the elderly. For instance, the symptoms of depression were found to be less conspicuous. College and university sportspeople from South Africe also reported much fewer psychosomatic and depressive symptoms and a higher number of positive experiences than their fellow students who were not involved in any sport activity (Malebo et al. 2007).

Control questions:

  1. What physical, mental and social effects does regular sport have?

  2. How is it functioned as a protective factor?