The benefits of exercise are many, and the benefits of exercising with others could be even more. Team sports are common among children and youth, but continuing these activities well into adult years could be the key to happiness and long-term wellness.
The London School of Economics conducted a survey among over 450 athletes and found a direct correlation between team sports and life satisfaction. The athletes who were part of a team showed higher levels of reported happiness with life in general, as opposed to their solo counterparts.
Furthermore, the research found that the athletes who were part of a team and were happy with their teammates showed even higher levels of life satisfaction. The happier they were with their team, the happier they were with their lives.
Dr. Chia-Huei Wu, Assistant Professor of Management at LSE, attributes the feelings of happiness to the camaraderie and feelings of belonging when one is a member of a team.
“We found that this can be explained by the social interaction and feelings of identity that comes from being a team member, which are not as present when an athlete pursues their own individual goals.”
The athletes participating in the study ranged in age from 12 to 20 years, and varied greatly in which sports they played. Swimming, cycling, and basketball were a few of the sports on the list, and the subjects were surveyed about their happiness and life satisfaction three times over six months.
It is recommended that children and youth participate in community and team sports in order to assist with social development and interaction skills, but these benefits can last well into adult years. Unfortunately, opportunities to join team sports seem to grow fewer as one increases in age. However, the mental and physical benefits are worth considering, even if the change is as simple as turning a solo run into running with a club.
“There are important lessons in this study for those participating in sport at any level, as playing in a team environment will bring a range of benefits beyond the health benefits of exercise,” said Dr. Wu. “Joining a team may bring feelings of belonging with your teammates, and being satisfied with your team may help you be satisfied with your life.”
It is believed by some that athletic identity can become detrimental, as the athlete loses their sense of self when they are no longer able to participate in the sport that means so much to them. When life satisfaction relies solely on the success of, or membership in, a team, the athlete suffers a great deal of loss when this is taken away due to injury or the non-advancement of their career.
While team sports can bring long-term happiness, a good balance of other hobbies is necessary as well to ensure optimal mental and psychological health. That being said, team sports offer a fun and easy method of staying active, meeting new people, and enjoying life.
Marissa is a health and fitness writer from the Tampa Bay area. In addition to researching the latest trending topics, she enjoys instructing kickboxing classes and posting incessantly to her Instagram account.