Don’t Let Stress Get You Down! Why Major Athletes Read to Destress

By Ariana A.

The mental health predicament has been a problem for years in sports history. Luckily, studies have been done, and shockingly reading can reduce stress levels by 68%, more than music, video games, or simply walking, and even some famous athletes think so.

Tim Green is a football player and writes sports novels for teenagers. Another football player Rashad Jennings started an organization, “dedicated to promoting reading in elementary schools. The foundation’s slogan is “Play 60-Read 20.” This organization wants students to play for 60 minutes and read for 20 minutes. It advocates for both reading and athletics.

Why do athletes like Tim Green read, and what does it do to help them? Well, believe it or not, studies show that reading influences how we think, feel, and behave on and off the field. Reading is beneficial to our mental health and mental health is critical for our entire well-being. Most people look at athletes as perfect or people who cannot have mental health problems, but it turns out it is a pretty big problem in the sports industry.

Some of the more famous athletes struggle with their mental health. For example,  Naomi Osaka suffered from anxiety and depression, Michael Phelps suffered from depression, and even big names like Serena Williams have suffered. She spoke about her mental health and struggle with postpartum depression. This has definitely become a problem, as, “up to 35% of elite athletes suffer from a mental health crisis.” Writing can also help. In Naomi Osaka’s case, she wrote a New York Times article about her mental health. Research shows that most of these athletes who suffer from mental health crises, they write or speak about it after mostly saying it was a lesson they needed to learn. They feel free afterward and more relaxed.

             You can always improve your mental health and brain function. For example, several scientific studies have, “demonstrated that reading books has long-term benefits for both your physical and mental health. They used functional MRI scans to assess the impact of reading a novel on the brain.” For 19 days, the participants read the novel Pompeii. As they read more of the story, most of the brains of the participants “lit up with activity.” What’s more, the brain connectivity was maintained for days following the trial. “The brain changes were not merely immediate reactions,” says neurologist Gregory Berns behind the study.

Emory’s Center for Neuropolicy Director said,  “Since they persisted the morning following the readings, and for the five days after the participants finished the novel,” reading literary fiction helps you understand other people’s emotions. This capacity is known as the “theory of mind,” and it is necessary for developing and maintaining social interactions. The National Institute on Aging encourages reading books to keep your mind active as you get older. Reading not only stimulates your brain, but it also works as a cerebral workout. Reading turns out to be a very demanding neurobiological activity. When you read, the parts of your brain connected with vision, language, and associative learning begin to function. According to the study, “Reading helps to exercise your brain, which protects your memory from degradation.”

Other studies show you can reduce muscle tension, reduce blood pressure, and calm your pulse rate by reading for 1 hour every day. In fact, experts discovered that when it comes to dealing with psychological distress, reading is just as effective as yoga and comedy. While other activities can briefly relieve stress by distracting you from your everyday troubles, reading actively stimulates your imagination. For instance, “A 12-year long-term health and retirement research with 3,635 adult participants discovered that readers lived about 2 years longer than those who either didn’t read.” It shows that they were healthier physically and mentally because they were able to live longer. Reading can help athletes’ mental health and ultimately how they play. Reading a novel improves the brain’s resting-state connections and general performance, according to one study. The thing is when you read fiction, you use your imagination to place yourself in the shoes of another person. The mind-body connection explains why muscle memory visualization works so well in sports. Scientific research revealed that half an hour of reading reduced blood pressure, pulse rate, and symptoms of emotional distress just as successfully as other hobbies like yoga. If reading can provide so many benefits to your physical and mental health, athletes and people should make it a habit. That is how they will join the ranks of great achievers. Leaders are readers, after all, and they make time for reading. Reading helps athletes’ mental and physical health, and they are not how they are painted in Hollywood movies. Well, not all of them. So maybe that’s why Tim Green reads – maybe to prove Hollywood wrong, maybe to improve his mental and physical health, or maybe Mr. Green just loves reading. There is always something out there for people to read, no matter what, whether it’s a blog, a fictional story, a news article, notes, or whatever. After all, you are reading this article right now and are probably feeling rejuvenated.

Student Bio

Ariana A.

2022 - WoS Kearny - Summer Camp

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