I found studies on how leisure activities can positively affect well-being, e.g. stress reduction.
My question is more specific as I want to research how participation in sport can help one deal with difficult life circumstances like for instance loss of a loved one or abuse. Academic literature in this area seems to be very scarce.

My aim would be to bring out the implications for counselling practice and demonstrate that sport participation is effective in dealing with negative life events.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Yeah, there's tons. What's research have you done on this? By going to scholar.google.com and searching "sport as psychological therapy" I found this article "Exercise treatment for depression: Efficacy and dose response". Alternatively, if you're looking more at the effect of team sports, you're going to have to be more specific. $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Oct 29, 2017 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to CogSci. This is definitely too broad of a question I'm afraid. Adding your area of interest would be a prerequisite for this post to stay up (say - 'can sport be used as a therapeutic, clinical tool against depression' etc.). Adding any prior research effort helps too. 'Gimme the reference' questions are a bit 'too easy'. Please edit your question to bring it into focus and add some background. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Oct 30, 2017 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ I found studies on the positive effect of leisure activities on well-being and quality of life, e.g. Stress reduction. However my question is more specific as it relates to how sport participation can help one cope with a negative life event like loss of a loved one or abuse. Literature in this area seems very scarce. My main aim would be to demonstrate how sport can be an alternative counselling tool when dealing with difficult life circumstances. $\endgroup$
    – user17385
    Oct 30, 2017 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ @user17385 why is the reference I've given you not valid? Also, are you looking for a specific aspect of sport, such as camaraderie, the emotional skills acquired or something else? $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Nov 1, 2017 at 18:30

1 Answer 1


The American Psychological Association (APA, 2020) points out that:

Research shows that while exercise initially spikes the stress response in the body, people experience lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine after bouts of physical activity.

So yes. Exercise can help to deal with negative life events and for completeness, the article linked in the APA page is Hackney (2010).

One interesting point they make next is that:

So far, there's little evidence for the popular theory that exercise causes a rush of endorphins. Rather, one line of research points to the less familiar neuromodulator norepinephrine, which may help the brain deal with stress more efficiently. Research in animals since the late 1980s has found that exercise increases brain concentrations of norepinephrine in brain regions involved in the body's stress response.

Norepinephrine is particularly interesting to researchers because 50% of the brain's supply is produced in the locus coeruleus, a brain area that connects most of the brain regions involved in emotional and stress responses.


APA. (2020). Working out boosts brain health https://www.apa.org/topics/exercise-fitness/stress

Hackney, A. C. (2006). Stress and the neuroendocrine system: the role of exercise as a stressor and modifier of stress. Expert review of endocrinology & metabolism, 1(6), 783-792. https://doi.org/10.1586/17446651.1.6.783


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