We encourage children and teenagers to play sport because we know how important it is for them to be active, to experience teamwork, to build confidence when they win, and learn to cope with disappointment and pick themselves up when they lose. So we do know that playing team sports can improve your life. For some reason, we decide that, as adults, we do not need these benefits, but this is obviously not the case.
Everyone from doctors and scientists to celebrities on the television are telling us how important it is that we include regular exercise in our lives. We know that we should be doing some form of exercise, but when we look into what we should be doing, for how long, and how often, we are confronted with a lot of conflicting information. In fact, some studies suggest that exercise can do more harm than good if done incorrectly. The result is that many people end up doing very little exercise or force themselves to follow a grueling or dull exercise regimen which they do not enjoy.
If you want to start exercising but are not keen on the idea of joining a gym or running around your local streets, you might want to consider taking up a sport. Here are six ways that playing team sports can improve your quality of life physically, mentally, and emotionally.
6 Ways Playing Team Sports Can Improve Your Life
#1 Playing sport is a fun form of exercise
The physical benefits of playing regular exercise are numerous, but even though we know that exercise is ‘good for us,’ it is often not enough to motivate us to get moving. If you are not sure of exactly how exercise makes us healthier, here are some of the most important physical benefits to keep in mind. Exercising regularly can:
- Maximize your aerobic capacity
- Reduce blood pressure
- Reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Reduce your risk of dementia
- Reduce your risk of arthritis
- Maintain your immune system function
- Strengthen your bones
- Increase your breathing capacity
- Build your muscle mass
- Improve your memory and cognitive functioning
- Improve the quality of your sleep (which is also important for your immune system, cognitive functioning, mental health, and circadian rhythm).
Many people find that playing competitive sport with other people is a much more fun way of exercising (especially when compared to the repetitive nature of using gym equipment or jogging/running the same local route several times a week). Quite simply, when we enjoy an activity, we are much more likely to repeat it.
#2 Playing sport supercharges your energy and motivation
One of the big physical benefits of exercise is that it means your body functions more efficiently, and more oxygen reaches your body’s cells. This results in increased strength, resilience, stamina, and fewer aches, all of which add up to higher energy levels in all areas of your life.
When you exercise alone, you are more likely to allow yourself to skip a session, finish earlier, or go easy on yourself. When you are exercising as part of a team training session or match, you have other people relying on you to give your all. Deciding not to train or not playing at your best means letting others down, and this is a powerful motivator.
#3 Lift your mood and reduce stress/anxiety
Playing sport regularly has been found to boost our mood while reducing depression, stress, and anxiety. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins (neurotransmitters), which provide a natural high and make us feel calmer and happier. The feeling can be highly addictive and lasts for a significant amount of time after the exercise has ended. In fact, exercise is often recommended by doctors and mental health professionals for patients struggling with their mental health.
When we are worried and stressed about something, refocusing your energy and attention on playing sport can remove the worry temporarily. Then, when the exercise is over, the endorphins which have been released coupled with the reduction in adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) provide a shift in our thinking. Often, after exercise, we can see our problems from a new perspective and have more energy to figure out a solution.
#4 Widen your social circle
Being part of a team provides a social element that a lot of other forms of exercise do not. Yes, you might meet people in an exercise class or at the gym but playing side by side on a team with a shared motivation results in a much deeper connection. Weekly training sessions and competitive matches mean that you will see the same people regularly and can gradually get to know them without needing to be particularly forward about it. Even if you are someone who struggles with social interaction, playing sport is a great ice breaker and takes a lot of the pressure off. Soon enough, you might just be heading for a drink after practice or planning a victory celebration with your team.
#5 Improve self-esteem
When you are playing a sport that suits your skills, fitness, personality, and motivation, the impact on your self-esteem can be huge. Over time, you will see your fitness and skills improve as you train, which can give a much more positive view of yourself and boost your confidence. Being a member of a team brings a sense of self-worth whether the team wins or loses, and, when you are instrumental in a victory, the feeling of pride is unbeatable. With improved self-esteem and a sense of purpose, you will find that you have a much more positive view of yourself in other areas of your life.
A research study by Myprotein found that the USA ranks highest in the world for Olympic and elite sporting success, showing that success is a major motivation for sporting Americans.
#6 Playing sport provides escapism
Most adults are spinning lots of plates and managing lots of different commitments, including work, family, partner, finances, and more. Playing in a sports team on a weekly basis provides an escape from stress, expectations, pressure, and deadlines, enabling you to focus your energy on training or a match for a couple of hours.
In many ways, playing sport enables you to keep a part of your week to yourself when you are not a parent, son/daughter, sibling, employee, boss, or anything else. You are an essential part of a team, and other than the match in front of you, nothing else matters, and this can be a big relief. Making the commitment to be part of the team at a particular time on a particular day can also help to provide you with structure and a sense of purpose.