We all know by now that regular exercise can have wondrous effects not only your physical health but on mental well-being as well. Regular exercise can stimulate the brain, help us deal with depression, protect us against anxiety and provide a boost to our self-esteem. It’s also nice to know that regular exercise in this context doesn’t have to mean sweating it out like you’re training for a marathon. It can mean a 30-minute walk each day. In other words, small but regular portions of exercise have shown time and time again to have significant benefits in alleviating or preventing mental health issues.
But the question here is: Can watching sports also have similar positive effects? Some experts have put forward the theory that watching sports can have less dramatic but still, significant positive effects on your mental well-being, especially for older people with dementia. When you watch your favorite team play, whether they win or lose, fans tend to be on an emotional high, as witnessing your team scoring a goal can be emotionally stimulating. Re-watching replays of golden moments can even rekindle old memories and feelings, connecting people to their past. Events like the World Cup and the Super Bowl, for examples, also tend to bring friends and family together and create a euphoric and memorable atmosphere, as people debate the likelihood of this team or that team coming out on top — though sporting-odds aggregating sites like Oddschecker are more likely to have better predictions for outcomes than your rowdy cousin after his fifth beer
The theory was first put forward by Professor Alistair Burns, who studies old age psychiatry at the University of Manchester. Speaking about the phenomenon, Professor Burns has said: “There is a positive link between watching classic football matches and keeping the mind active…re-watching matches can rekindle past memories, connect people with their past and keep the brain active.” Other research has also indicated that being a sports fan can have positive benefits for your emotional and social health. It seems, sports fans tend to have higher self-esteem and feel less lonely than non-sports fans. In their book “Sports Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators,” psychologist Daniel Wann, Gordon Russell and Merrill Melnick argue that this is because of the connections that watching and talking about sports with other fans, especially those rooting for the same team, can provide.
So, it seems that, along with the health benefits we get from keeping active, we can also maintain a sense of overall well-being by merely watching sports. That’s excellent news for football fans everywhere.