6 Reasons Team Sports Will Make You Feel Like a Champion
by J’Nel Wright
With college teams and NFL off to another football season, it seems fitting to discuss the health benefits of playing team sports. This season, along with cheering for your favorite team, why not be a part of your own team? Sports like basketball, soccer, bowling, tennis, even dance provide plenty of winning health benefits.
So lace up those cross-trainers and put on that game face. Here are six ways team sports will make you feel like a champion.
Our bodies are designed to move. “Exercising has a host of health benefits, including reducing the chances of developing heart disease, some types of cancer, and other chronic diseases,” say experts at Harvard’s School of Public Health. “Physical activity is a key element of weight control and health.”
Sometimes it’s hard to commit to walking alone, but it may be easier to sign up for a weekly pick-up game with some old college buddies or join a group yoga or Zumba class. People are more likely to commit to doing something they enjoy.
Find me a lifetime athlete, and I’ll show you a smartypants—literally. Experts recognize the link between exercise and healthy brain function. “The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells,” explains Heidi Godman, executive editor for Harvard Health Publishing.
Some studies out of Harvard University show that walking as little as one hour twice a week offers significant cognitive benefits.
Adults benefit from healthy social connections. It isn’t always easy to find new friends, but we need them. “Close relationships with others are vital to your health—physical, mental and emotional,” says AARP contributor Mary Mohler. Whether it’s joining a bowling or tennis league or volunteering to walk dogs with other animal shelter volunteers, the concept of being part of a team is an important part of building supportive friendships.
The health benefits of team sports are just as prominent off the court or field as during competition. For instance, sports like volleyball, basketball, rugby, soccer, track, or rowing are great forms of aerobic exercise. Experts at the Mayo Clinic say cardio-vascular exercise improves heart health and builds endurance. This, in turn, reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. For strength training, power-lifting has been shown to improve muscle mass and combat aging. And activities like swimming are ideal for maintaining healthy joints, which reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis. And sports that promote flexibility, such as bowling, curling, and dance, improve balance. Improved flexibility also reduces the risk of falls.
5. Boost confidence.
We sometimes forget that team sports present an emotional boost that benefits people of all ages. As a parent, think back to some of the reasons you enrolled your children in team sports. Some reasons may be to build confidence, make friends, overcome shyness, or develop new skills. The motivation for older adults is the same. “Not surprisingly, researchers have found that physical activities play a particularly powerful role in strengthening physical self-worth,” reports Richard Bailey, Ph.D., a Psychology Today contributor.
Meg McConahey, writer for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat agrees. “There was a time when seniors were warned to take it easy and, at all costs, avoid injury. Keep it safe and light like walking or swimming. But as with so many cultural and social practices, Baby Boomers are forging a new norm for exercising. And that may include dialing back to the early life excitement of team sports.”
We are a nation of worry warts. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 40 million Americans 18 and older suffer from anxiety. And the American Psychological Association says our stress is costing the US economy upwards of $300 billion every year.
It seems getting our head in the game provides double the benefits. “Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem,” say researchers at the ADAA. They added that spending as little as five minutes engaged in aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
By playing team sports, good health doesn’t need to be a fantasy. Instead, make healthy living a reality by joining a sports team this season.
Photo credits: https://www.usafe.af.mil/, southcountysportsclub.org, https://www.acc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/661168/be-physically-prepared-for-summer-sports-to-prevent-injury/, US Special Operations Command team, Warrior Games 2014 140928-M-WE418
J'Nel Wright is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in topics concerning health and wellness, aging, caregiving, humor, travel and business. Her work has appeared in a variety of regional and national publications. Her educational background includes a bachelor's degree in English and Social Work. She has traveled throughout Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, French Polynesia, Mexico and much of the United States. She is a full time writer.