by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
You may not be playing the sport, but you are still scoring points. Here’s how fandom can lead to personal health victories …
If you find yourself feeling guilty for lazing around an entire Sunday while watching football, it’s time to consider the health benefits of this popular pastime. Cheerfully air-punching fists, high-fiving, and literally jumping for joy as your team scores takes spectatorship to a more active level. It’s not like watching a dramatic saga that renders you lifeless on the couch for several consecutive hours.
Sports psychology and wellness studies have discovered some powerful benefits to being a diehard fan. They may not eliminate the effects of one too many brews or that orange cheese product that seems to flavor all things football. However, they do deliver a powerful boost.
Sports bars are popular for a reason. Fans like to gather to watch the game, whether in a restaurant setting or living room. For some, a favorite sport season is like a set social schedule, game dates being guaranteed times to see friends and family. Sociologists have studied interpersonal spectator dynamics and determined actual communities are formed among same-team fans.
This sense of belonging seems without boundaries. Case in point: An East Coast football fan moved out West. Despite being across country, he found a collection of fans who shared allegiance to his team from “back home.” During football season, this devoted group faithfully met at a venue in San Jose to cheer on the East Coast team. Fandom resulted in a great way to meet new (like-minded) people and adjust to a life-changing relocation. Plus, it’s hearty fun.
Research proves sport fans bring their brains to the game. Fans tune in by creating their own mental plays, which involves planning, strategizing, and considering what-if scenarios. This challenge increases visual and cognitive abilities. Research shows that regularly listening to and watching sports actually stimulates different areas of your brain than regular programming and even improves certain neurological functions. In one University of Chicago study, hockey players and fans listening to a hockey game broadcast used more parts of their brain, especially those related to controlling, planning, and performing, than a group of nonfans listening to the same broadcast.
Stimulating the brain by regular sport spectatorship can improve neurological functions. Different areas of the brain are stimulated when watching and listening to sports than when being entertained by other programs. The next time you are accused of mindlessly watching the game, you can counter the opposite is true. You are sharpening your thinking skills.
Sports fans tend to have less feelings of alienation and fewer bouts of depression than their uninterested counterparts. This could be linked to the aforementioned shared camaraderie. Additionally, a win for the team is a win for its fans. Research shows fans experience a boost to their own ego and health when the team they idolize wins. Just keep this euphoria in mind when suffering your team’s losses, with their corresponding demotivation. It is all part of being a loyal fan.
Your Game Plan
Every game, every season can end on a winning note. Head to the Center and train for your next fan fest. You may not be playing, but you still need to boost your strength and stamina for all the hoopla fandom requires. And, there are those game-day snacks to burn off.
“8 Health Benefits and Risks of Sports Superfandom,” by Wyatt Myers at everydayhealth.com.
Brain cogs: pixabay.com/en/head-brain-man-face-human-607480