When was the last time you thought about getting out of the gym and onto the soccer pitch? Or digging out your white skirt and playing a game of tennis? Probably not very recently.
According to new research from DW Fitness, over half us play no sport at all and 35% of us haven’t for over 20 years. While you may be glad to have left the days of softball behind you, sport is a great way to get fit, boost self-esteem and improve mental health.
Why aren’t people playing anymore?
Apparently, our relationship with sports as a child may be to blame. “The fear of sports, especially organised sports often starts at around adolescence during PE at school,” says Dr Philippa Kaye, author of The First Five Years and Baby & Child Health.
“We are worried that we won’t be good at it, that others will laugh at us, that we can’t do it, that it is embarrassing. Add on 20 or 40 years and these anxieties can become quite deep-rooted and in addition there are new worries.”
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Should we start up again?
The benefits to taking part in sport are not just physical, as the mental health charity Mind explains the social and emotional benefits of playing sport.
1. Making friends and connecting with people
Being around people is good for our mental health and social networks – plus you can maximise the benefits of exercising by doing it with other people. You may find that the social benefits are just as important as the physical ones.
2. Having fun
Lots of us enjoy being active because it’s fun. Researchers have shown that there’s a link between the things we enjoy doing and improvements in our wellbeing overall. If you enjoy an activity you’re also more likely to keep doing it.
3. Challenging stigma and discrimination
Some people find that joining a sport programme helps reduce the stigma attached to their mental health problem. Getting involved in local projects with other people who share a common interest can be a great way to break down barriers and challenge discrimination.
Not sure what to try? These days there are plenty of non-competitive environments for you to try out sport. You don’t have to join a team to reap the benefits that sport can offer.