Your pickup soccer game is like a therapy session: A new study from Switzerland suggests that playing ball sports may help you fight off depression in the face of stress.
Researchers found that stressed-out people who frequently played such sports—or danced!—had fewer depressive symptoms, like decreased mood and hopelessness, than frazzled folks who did other forms of exercise.
The reason? Ball sports and dancing may give your brain a “time-out”—a distraction from daily stressors, the researchers say. The activities are fun, require lots of concentration, and include a social element, which may make them especially helpful for people prone to dwelling on stress.
That doesn’t mean you should ditch the cardio and weightlifting you already do—just consider supplementing it. While those forms of exercise didn’t reduce stress in these study subjects, they didn’t increase it, either. It’s also possible the participants didn’t experience a big mood boost from traditional solo exercise because they were already more active than the average American, says Men’s Health exercise science advisor Mark Peterson, Ph.D.
Research suggests that any exercise probably has mood-enhancing potential. But if you want to throw, dribble, or kick around a ball, check out sportsvite.com for sports leagues in your area.