The benefits of playing sports, for all ages
Sports are popular worldwide. 20% of Americans doing sports daily, and in the UK 40% of men and 31% of women do sports at least weekly. That’s a lot of people. But why are sports so important to people, and what are the benefits of playing sports.
My sporting life
Once I got over my awkwardness of my early years, and moved to a new area and school at age 7, sports were important to me. Through school where I was in several teams, uni where I focused on playing squash plus aerobics classes with friends. Then continuing squash once I was working, joining a local team and ladder.
Dance took over, then having a child meant I was involved with children’s sports rather than for myself. I was the junior team’s tennis captain at our club, and organised the team and matches. Now I’m back playing tennis through rusty rackets lessons, hopefully to play ongoing.
I come off the court wishing I could play for longer even though I’m tired from working hard. Wanting to get back out there. It’s invigorating knowing my body can get me through, and knowing that everytime I play I’m improving.
The benefits of sports
Top spot has to be fitness. The more we do sport, the fitter we get, the more we can do, for longer.
Improved health and preventative benefits
Playing sport reduces your risk of ill health, in particular heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. Studies in cardiovascular disease in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that there was a risk reduction of mortality rates for cardiovascular death of 41% for swimming, 56% for racket sports, and 36% for aerobics.
Weight bearing sports are good for preventing the onset of osteoarthritis. Especially for women approaching or going through the menopause, playing sports (or any weight bearing exercise) will help keep bones strong.
Doing sports often means you need to work on your balance and coordination. This has benefits as you get older.
In conjunction with a healthy diet, it can help you lose weight and lose body fat. Lots of us work to the credit-debit way of thinking, ie do more sport, eat a treat. Not the best way to do it, but it’s better to balance out the unhealthier food with playing sports. If you’re not trying to lose weight it can help you maintain it. Maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce the chance of major illnesses.
Improved mental health
Sports have been proven to reduce anxiety, depression and better people’s mental health. Playing sports increases endorphins (feel good hormones) while reducing adrenaline and cortisol which are stress hormones.
Keep you mentally sharp
Many sports require you to be mentally sharp, to plan and think about tactics, working as a team, and where a ball might be coming from. As you get older it’s important to keep working your brain cells, and sports is a way to do that. You’re using your brain in a different way to day to day living.
Sports can be free or cheap to play
Some sports require very little equipment and no specific clothing other than a pair of trainers, t shirt, joggers, leggings or shorts. Most people already have these in their wardrobe. Yes if you join a club you may need to play a fee, but you can also play sports in a local park with friends – think rounders, football, basketball, or frisbee.
Sports are generally played with at least one other person. Whether you meet up with one friend to play tennis, join a running club or rugby team, there’s a great chance to meet like minded people. To socialise after training sessions. To broaden your horizons by making friends outside of your normal circles.
If you move to a new area, joining a sports club is a great way to meet other people and settle into a new place.
Escapism from daily life
If you play sport, you’re focusing on playing. You can’t think about work at the same time, or home life. Your focus and concentration is on the team you’re playing with and the end goal or target.
Sports are often something you can do to take time out. To do something for you, not for your partner or children. But something you enjoy.
Boosts self esteem
Competitive sports can be a great way to boost your mood when you win. Even training can provide good feelings. When you hit the person shot, or learn to do something you’ve been struggling with. Your teammates are relying on you to be a part of it, and when things go right with a win, it can give you a confidence boost.
Being part of a team and seeing that team is important for mental health, and the community. You can’t be part of a successful sports team unless you work together. With so many more people working from home nowadays, playing sports is a good way to get out of the house, meet other people, and have a shared focus and goal. What you learn in sports teams also translates into the work environment
Playing sports often means getting outside in the fresh air. Even if not, you’re exerting yourself, getting your body working, and it encourages better sleep. Which we all need for our bodies to recover, and so the cycle continues.
Effective learning and muscle memory
By playing sports, you’re training your body to work in certain way, and your brain to think and react differently to your normal day to day.
World peace and respect
Well, maybe not quite world peace. But sports brings nations together, at whatever level of sport you play. To play fair, you need to have respect for your opponents in winning or losing.
Overall, with all these benefits of playing sports, it makes you wonder why people wouldn’t find a sport that suits them. There’s sure to be one out there for everyone.