Mental health among athletes has catapulted to the forefront of conversation this week in light of Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open after organizers pushed back following her decision not to speak to the media, which she said provokes major anxiety and stress within her.
In a virtual presentation Tuesday, Fiona Berwick, head of global marketing communications for Asics, said that speaking for her company: “As a brand with such an intrinsic understanding of the connection between mind and body, we believe it is our responsibility to support our athletes and champion their mental health, no matter what.”
Berwick was part of a panel discussion announcing Asics’ launch of a live global study on the impact sport has on minds. Called Uplifting Minds, the goal is to encourage 1 million people to participate by having their faces scanned and answering a couple of questions about their mood before and after exercising for 20 minutes.
Christoph Correll, director of COH-FIT, an international study on health during times of infections such as COVID-19, said that the number of adults reporting anxiety or depression over the past 18 months has skyrocketed nearly 400 times from the first six months of 2019. But exercise has proven to be the biggest influence on mental well-being, he said.
Dr. Brendon Stubbs, research physiotherapist at King’s College London, said that after 20 minutes of running, alertness increased by 13.4 percent, relaxation by 13.3 percent, calmness by 15.9 percent and energy levels by 9.7 percent. As a result, Asics hopes to bring these mood elevators to the general public by soliciting participation in the study. The data will be used to create a world map that will illustrate the impact sport has on cities, nations and the world.
“As we all come to terms with a much-changed world in the wake of the pandemic, the uplifting power of sport is a constant that endures,” said Yasuhito Hirota, president and chief operating officer of Asics. “That’s why our sole ambition is to empower as many people as possible to experience the physical and mental benefits of movement. By taking part in any number of our different events and activities running across the year, you’ll contribute to vital research to help us further understand the uplifting effect of sport. That way we can continue finding new ways to highlight and unlock the benefits for everyone in 2022 and beyond.”
The Uplifting Minds survey will kick off on Wednesday, which is Global Running Day.