Why sport is good for more than just your body

Harry Straw reports on the less obvious benefits of taking part in team sports

It’s undeniable – sport is good for you. We know, and are told often, that regular exercise is good for our health. And at no point in our lives could good health be so welcome than at university; spending the most carefree days of our lives having fun, finding new friends, and completing a degree. But it can also be the place where every imaginable problem will, at some point, be thrown at you, and, whilst sport can’t directly solve those problems, it can give you a good start. Let me explain:

Ever heard the expression, “a healthy body is a healthy mind”? Well, it’s true. There have been countless studies on how sport can improve self-esteem and happiness, whilst also reducing anxiety and depression. But don’t for a minute think that those benefits are only for those who are already in good physical shape and exercise regularly; studies have concluded that general improvements in self-perception or self-esteem are most likely to occur in those who have most to gain physically from exercise.

However please don’t take this as a subliminal Public Service Announcement from me telling you all to, ‘get in the gym’. Yes, that’s a good thing for anyone to do, but instead I want to urge everyone to take up a team sport, if you’re not already part of one. Or, if you are, try a new one. Not only does the FXU offer a wide-range of them from the classics to the wacky, (Quidditch, anyone?), but they have been proven to have the highest impact on your general health, vitality, social functioning; emotional functioning, mental health and life satisfaction. The scientists aren’t wrong. From personal experience, I can see what they’re getting at. Whenever I’m stressed with work, I find a quick run or a kick about with my mates really helps you to clear your mind, isolate your problems, and allow you the mental space to work out how to effectively solve them. Like a little mental detox.

I’ve been a part of some team sport for nearly 16 years now, and I’ve gained a lot from it. It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet new people, learn how to overcome obstacles as a collective unit, and have fun practising a sport you love. That one person who never helps with the group assignments, has probably never been involved in a team sport in their life. This is because team-sport is inclusive; a mutually beneficial instrument for all involved. You gain skills that are really valuable in the work-place and in life in general – yet they can’t be taught in a lecture hall.

Whilst FalEx has got a reputable standing amongst creative and academic circles, our sporting prowess is yet to be fully recognised, except maybe in surfing. Parking availability aside, it’s the one facet of university life that we really need to improve upon: big, joint sport socials, legendary initiations, dedicated sports nights-out in town. These are commonplace in most universities and we in Falmouth can have them too if more of us get involved. There’s already something for everyone, what we need now is for everyone to find their something.

Just by playing, or taking part in a sport often means you commit yourself to doing things at set times with other people. It simply makes you more committed. If you’ve already committed and you’ve had a heavy night partying or cramming and you don’t really want to go and exercise, you are more likely to do it anyway if you’ve agreed to meet another person. And when you’ve got a hangover, post Club I on a Friday morning, we all know that the last thing you’ll want to do is go and exercise, but believe me, you’ll feel so much better afterwards for doing so.

Sport eradicates boundaries of race, gender, nationality, disabilities, as the Rio de Janerio Olympics and Paralympics nicely showed this summer. Partaking in a team-sport is a sign of open-mindedness, willingness and dedication, and more than that it’s just a great way to spend time with your mates having a laugh and getting fit.

So, in the immortal words of Shia Lebeouf, if you’re hesitating about joining a sports society during freshers week this year, “Just Do It!” It won’t let you down and is a great thing to be a part of.