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The athletes competing in the Olympics mount a tremendous responsibility on their shoulders. Representing the pinnacle of human performance, Olympians are not merely idolized for their athletic abilities, but also often praised for their moral character, sportsmanship, and/or mental resilience.

Bronze, silver and gold Olympic medals

Dr David Lyreskog, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Psychiatry, comments:

We like to think that athleticism and doing sports is good for us, as it can offer a sense of achievement, and teach us valuable skills such as perseverance and team spirit. People are inspired by incredible athletes and their achievements; however, do these athletes make appropriate targets of aspiration – for young people in particular?

Exercise vs sports

Exercise and top-level sports differ in some significant ways. Where exercise has proven over and over again to be an excellent means to promote not only physical health, but also well-being and mental health, professional sports may not be very healthy.

During the Olympics alone, about 11% of the athletes incur injuries. In elite sports teams, the prevalence of depression and anxiety is sometimes as high as 45%, and in adolescent elite sports the prevalence of eating disorders is approximately 14%. The pursuit of performance – of excellence – does not appear to be a healthy one.

To read the full feature by Dr David Lyreskog.

NIHR OXFORD HEALTH BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH CENTRE NEWS

Please follow the link below to read the news on the NIHR BRC website.

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