The Health Benefits of Playing Sports

Sport (or physical sports) is any types of generally competitive physical action that, through organised or casual participation, seek to employ, enhance or develop personal skill and/or ability while offering participants, and sometimes, spectators, entertainment. The word’sport’ itself is not dated, but has its roots firmly planted in the early nineteenth century with the adoption of the French term’sport pour l’amateurs (sports for amateurs). In France, as well as other European countries, the term sport is generally used to describe a certain type of competitive event, though the etymology of the term points to Greek history and the beginnings of organized sports. In the United States, however, the term sports is most commonly used to refer to organized recreational sports such as American football, baseball, basketball and softball.


It is the contention of many researchers that sports help build physical health, helping build bones, muscles, and ligaments, which are vital in later life and that sports help develop mental health by reducing stress and anxiety. Sports also help to reduce physical and mental illness. For example, participating in high intensity sports such as athletics, sailing, rowing and skiing has been shown to help reduce the chances of stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Sports help to build self-confidence and also help to manage stress and frustration. Sports help people to overcome fear of losing, especially in competitive events. In fact, many athletes, especially those who compete internationally, train rigorously to increase their self-confidence and overcome the ‘invisible barrier’ of competition.

Some argue that there is no link between participation in sports and depression because participation in sports such as swimming, running and cycling is seen as an enjoyable, healthy and self-regulating physical activity. Others point out that depression can occur due to emotional stress caused by pressure from team commitments or work load placed upon them. As a result, this form of non-physical activity can actually exacerbate feelings of depression. However, research has shown that participation in mind sports such as playing computer games or online games such as chess, puzzles or riddles has a calming effect on the mind. There is research to support that the mind releases chemicals that help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can then be used when involved in a real life sport such as chess in order to sharpen concentration and problem solving skills. It is hoped that continued participation in mind sports will have a positive effect on mental health and therefore, the overall well-being.

Participation in physical activity such as sports has also been shown to reduce the levels of fat and cholesterol in the blood stream. This is due to increased levels of endorphins produced by the body which act as analgesics and create a feeling of euphoria. One theory put forward by the British Council for Sport and Exercise (Bcers) is that participation in sport can reduce mental and physical fatigue by stimulating the brain and improving the performance of the body. This could explain why professional sports teams employ several sporting psychologists.

One of the main reasons that participating in sports has a positive mental health impact is that participation in sports improves social interaction and interpersonal relationships. It is now well known that a healthy social network is important to good physical health and fitness. And research has also suggested that sports help build and maintain social skills and interpersonal relationships. In a time when mental health is often seen to be in short supply, it is reassuring to see that even participation in sporting activities can lead to increased social interaction and emotional well-being. This may have a positive effect on the prevention and treatment of disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and generalised stress.

The UK Sports Council provides guidance and education to sportspeople in the UK, in terms of the rules and regulations of UK non-physical sports. UK residents are strongly encouraged to participate in UK sports and to take part in as many different sports as possible. This promotes a friendly and non-competitive environment, in which people from all backgrounds can enjoy the thrill and adventure of participating in UK sports. It also ensures fair competition between competitors, and helps build a sense of team spirit among participants. In terms of UK non-physical sports, the UK SGA’s Sportscores system provides detailed information on the scoring for each game, and the official scoring website provides an overview of games statistics across all sports.