Physical exercise is essential to keep you healthy and fit, but it does more than that. It affects your whole personality and behaviour. Numerous studies show that providing youngsters with plenty of opportunities to practice sports and physical exercise is a good way to reduce crime and violent behavior in a troubled area.
A healthy mind in a healthy body
Or as the Romans used to say ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’. The ancient people knew about the importance of regular exercise and sports were held in high esteem in both Greek and Roman societies.
Most parents understand the correlation between body and mind, which is why they enroll their children in various sports from a very young age.
However, that is not the case in less affluent neighborhoods. Left to their own devices, teenagers get easily bored and, unfortunately, a life of crime seems very exciting, as well as lucrative.
It starts with petty crime, like breaking a couple of windows or stealing a few beers from the corner shop and before they know it they’re dragged into more serious stuff.
The psychological implications of regular physical exercise
How does physical exercise play into this? The idea is simple – give children and teenagers something to do with their time. If there’s a gym just around the corner and it’s cheap, or better yet free, children will flock to it. Instead of trying to outdo each other with antisocial acts, they will compete in sports.
People are competitive by nature and they will want to prove they’re the strongest, the one who can lift the biggest weights or do 100 push-ups in a row.
At the same time, they will want to push themselves, to get the most spectacular abs. Physical exercise becomes a routine and the best thing is it doesn’t leave them with too much idle time on their hands.
How physical exercise makes people happier
It’s not just boredom that pushes people to antisocial behaviour. In many low-income areas what drives people into crime is anger and frustration. Physical exercise can change people’s mood as this activity promotes the release of various feel-good hormones.
For instance, physical exercise triggers the release of endorphins, whose main job is to inhibit the transmission of pain signals and to produce a state of euphoria. Serotonin and dopamine also improve the mood, as they are both involved in the so-called reward mechanism.
In other words, people just finishing a strenuous exercise session are in a good mood, less inclined to get involved in violent antisocial behaviour.
How sports programs helped Aboriginal communities in NSW
There have been several social experiments in Australia aimed at reducing crime levels by getting people into sports. In 1994, crime rates among the Aboriginal communities in New South Wales decreased significantly after the local authorities implemented various sports programs.
As a result, many youngsters managed to stay out of trouble and having a clean criminal record check helped them pursue an education and get decent jobs.