Top 16 Benefits of Playing Sports

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Sarah Pledger (M.S., R.D.)

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According to the Journal of the Public Library of Science, the health benefits of playing sports include an increase in lean body mass, an increase in basal metabolic rate, and an increase in bone density, assisting in healthy body composition.

In addition to this, many health factors are benefitted by playing sports such as efficient functioning of the heart, reduced rate of diabetes, better blood sugar control, lowered cholesterol levels, improved blood circulation, lowered rate of hypertension, and lowered stress levels.

The physical activity involved in playing a sport causes the body to adapt to this increased strength and cardiovascular demand to bring about the changes stated above. It also brings positive energy, discipline, and helps in building self-esteem and mutual respect.

Sports are universal, and playing sports is a favorite activity and stress relief for many people around the world. It provides us with enjoyment and also freshens up our mind. However, playing sports is actually more than running, jumping, or kicking a ball on the field. Indulging in sports helps our body function smoothly and more efficiently. Sports involve the activity and coordination of each and every muscle in our body. This helps not only strengthens the body but also to connect and coordinate the neuromuscular connections between muscles to achieve full-body coordination.

According to an article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, in addition to these physical benefits, the social interaction in sports combats depression, anxiety and is helpful in creating positive relationships, communities and long term mental health in participants.

Health Benefits of Playing Sports

Playing sports is not only for fun but has many health benefits like weight management, building strong muscles, building strong bones and much more. Let’s have a look at the benefits in detail.

Healthy Heart

The studies in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggest that physical activity actually helps lower the risk of heart attacks. Playing sports helps with stretching ability of the heart’s ventricles thereby allowing the heart to pump more blood with each beat. When the heart can pump more blood with each beat, your heart becomes more efficient and effective. The heart is a muscle, and playing sports is a workout for the heart and the skeletal muscles in the rest of the body.

Diabetes Control

Research performed by the Human Movement Sciences Department, Old Dominion University, Virginia, USA, has concluded that playing sports helps in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Also, sports help diabetics make most of the insulin present in their body. Also, physical activity helps in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. It can also help in weight management since it burns excess calories and increases the basal metabolic rate even at rest.

Weight Management

Obesity is a big issue faced by millions of people across the world. Over 55% of the adults in the US are obese, which is indirectly paving a way for chronic conditions like cancer and heart diseases. The American College of Sports Medicine says that this issue can be dealt with by indulging in sports or similar physical activities. In addition to this hunger was found to be suppressed by exercise in a study done by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. This study found that a hormone that induces hunger, ghrelin, was lowered in participants who exercised.

Lower Hypertension

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, may result in a stroke or heart disease. The National Health Service, UK suggests that aside from diet management, sports and physical activities are important to keep the blood pressure normal.

Young woman playing tennis on a tennis court

Balanced Cholesterol Levels

Playing sports also helps in maintaining lower cholesterol levels. Some experiments showed that compared to athletes, LDL or bad cholesterol levels in sedentary people were much higher, while HDL or good cholesterol levels were significantly higher in athletes (Sports Medicine 2014).

Improved Blood Circulation

Blood circulation gets better when you start playing sports. The body remains well oxygenated and thus, it remains more healthy and active. Apart from blood circulation, being physically active can also increase the hemoglobin count and the volume of blood.

In addition to this, The Journal of Cardiovascular Diabetology found that regular aerobic exercise was found to increase capillary density in the working muscle in both healthy and diabetic mice. Also, it has been long known that regular aerobic exercise will increase the mitochondrial count in the working muscle fibers. These two effects work in combination with the increased ability of the heart to pump more blood to create amplified ability to circulate blood.

The increase in capillaries results in being able to deliver more blood cells and therefore more oxygen, and the increase in mitochondrial density results in the working muscles being able to process more oxygen. The overall result is that you are able to exercise harder under less stress and recover quicker from hard exercise bouts.

Stronger Immunity

Regularly indulging in exercise and sports makes the body immune to many diseases that usually affect a person due to weak immunity. When a person exercises, the rate at which white blood cells reach every body part increases significantly. Playing sports increases sweat production and also removes toxins. Due to the rise in body temperature, the chances of bacterial growth also lessen.

Muscle Training and Toning

Sports could be the most integrative, fun, and the best form of workout for muscles. Strong, toned muscles are always desirable and that’s what you get when you consistently play active sports such as soccer, tennis, jogging, racquetball, baseball, and kickball. Both the strength and endurance of muscles also increases with time and consistency of engaging in sports.

You are also fine-tuning our muscles and training your muscles how to work together when engaging in sports. This phenomenon can be referred to as neuromuscular programming. Often in sports, we perform functional movements. Defined, functional movements are ones that mimic real-life movements such as squatting to lift something heavy off the ground. These functional movements involve a large number of muscles learning to work together in order to bring about complex movements such as jumping, throwing a ball, or swinging a tennis racquet. For example, running involves working out both the inner and outer thigh muscles at the same time along with activating your core to keep your stride smooth and pushing off with your gastrocnemius while your soleus is active stabilizing the ankle.

All these muscles must be programmed to work together in order to give you a smooth and efficient stride, which happens as you continually practice and train these muscles to get stronger and to learn how to move together.

Stronger Bones

Playing sports is beneficial in strengthening not only the muscles but also the bones in your body. Bones get their strength from increasing bone density which happens as you continually ‘load’ the bones with high power and strength movements. For example, running while playing sports loads the bone with much more weight than simply walking. This creates an adaptation within the bone in response to the increased stress for the bone to grow more dense to be able to withstand this increased loading in the future. When you consistently apply stress to the bone it will continue to strengthen and become denser.

This is especially important as we age. Aging naturally decreases bone density, which can result in osteoporosis if we do not have our bone density up in youth and middle age. Taking up sports is perhaps one of the easiest ways to maintain bone density and strength for people of all ages.

Positive Attitude

Sports can bring a positive attitude to your life if played in a healthy manner. It refreshes the mind and helps in developing a positive and fresh outlook on life. A 2018 special edition of the Journal of Sport and Health Science (JSHS) explored the social benefits, among others of team sports. Walter Herzog, co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal, revealed that team sports can not just enhance positivity in individuals, but it can bring communities together and build them too. 

Boosts Self-esteem

Playing any particular sport helps in building self-esteem. When one improves in any particular sport or skill, one feels good about it.

Discipline

Discipline becomes a natural part of life when you start spending time playing sports. This is because sports inspire people to live life by certain rules and regulations and move towards a positive end. Children who indulge in sports feel healthier, and develop better and healthier relationships with other people because a positive, team-based outlook is instilled in them.

Mutual Respect

Playing sports builds mutual respect for others as it includes playing opposite people but at the same time respecting them even if they have a negative attitude towards you.

Calmness

Sports train your mind to think calmly and find new strategies to deal with problems without getting too hyper.

Teamwork

Playing sports helps you build good relationships with people from diverse backgrounds and traits. It encourages teamwork and thus helps in preparing you to work with different people in a harmonious manner.

Goal Setting

Goal setting means that every person needs to have an idea about what he/she wants, whether it is in a game or in life. Sports may help in goal-setting and will improve performance levels in other areas of life.

Safety Tips

Let us look at the most important safety precautions you should take while playing sports.

Play under Expert Supervision

It is very important to be careful when participating in physical activities like sports. Playing them by implementing the wrong techniques can have harmful effects on your health. Try playing sports under the supervision of experienced players in the beginning and take their advice on how to play the game without getting hurt.

Stretching and Warm-up Exercises

Stretching and warm up exercises are a must in order to prevent cramps and sprains. Stretching prepares the body, brain, and mind for the physical activity involved in the sport. The blood flow increases in the muscle when one stretches and this increases the elasticity of muscles, which prevents muscle injuries.

Benefits of playing sport - infographic

Stay Hydrated

It is very important to remain well-hydrated in order to prevent dehydration from affecting the quality of your performance and your health. One must carry a sufficient amount of water if any sport is planned somewhere away from home. Drink water throughout the session in small quantities. Barry Popkin, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, says in his report on water and hydration that children or child athletes should begin their athletic activities in a well-hydrated state to avoid a dip in performance as well as dehydration-related health conditions.

In addition to this, if you will be playing a sport in the heat, you should take extra precautions to not become depleted of electrolytes. If you plan to play sports in the heat for longer than an hour and a half it is a good idea to add a sports drink with electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

It has been shown that we cannot retain the water that we drink when we are depleted of electrolytes, namely sodium. When we get too depleted of sodium we become ‘hyponatremic’ and unable to retain the water that we drink since sodium is needed in that process.

Acclimation

Acclimation is an important factor to be considered while playing in hot and humid conditions. There is a chance of developing heat-related illnesses, wherein the body struggles to bring down its body temperature. Under such conditions, one must stop playing the game, drink plenty of water, and try to cool down.

Avoid Playing on Rainy or Stormy Days

Playing any kind of sport on a rainy or stormy day is not advisable due to the risk of lightning, while the slippery ground can also result in injuries.

Concussions

One should be very alert about concussions. Every minor injury should be paid equal attention. Ignorance and arrogance are both harmful when you are playing sports. Consult your doctor immediately if you feel unwell.

Relax after the Game

It is important to rest after playing any sport. It helps to relax your body and mind. The heart rate normalizes and the muscles relax. Cold fluids should be consumed after playing an intense sport. They help in cooling down the body and also in preventing heat-related illnesses. These types of illnesses are serious issues that affect many people, even professional athletes, causing nausea, unsteadiness, and in certain instances, it can even make a person collapse completely. Prevention is the only way that this kind of situation can be dealt with, so make sure you drink plenty of water and keep your temperature down.

Older People

People who are not used to being very active physically should not indulge in intense sports sessions all of a sudden. This will adversely affect their health, especially obese and elderly people. Older people should actually start with small sessions because the body tends to lose its muscle capacity with age. Consulting a physician regularly also helps in remaining updated about one’s body and helps check any adverse effects of the physical activities you may have planned.

Obese People

Obese people should indulge in sports in a controlled manner. This is because they are more susceptible to sports injuries. Injuries can lead to soft tissue damage, infections, and can cause serious problems that can have long-term effects. Several research studies suggest that people who are obese are more prone to ankle injuries because of excess impact weight on the joints.

Playing sports is definitely a very helpful means to remain healthy and having fun at the same time, so choose a sport of your own and take a step towards a healthier lifestyle.

Sports in Today’s World

The United Nations Sports for Development and Peace can be regarded as one of the forerunners in sports all over the world, along with the International Olympics Committee and various other sports development authorities across the globe. The main motto of organizing sports by these organizations is to promote peace and brotherhood among nations. The United Nations Sports for Development and Peace believes that sports are not just leisure activities, but a fundamentally enforceable right all over the world, as well as a very effective tool in promoting humanitarian, developmental, and peace-building activities.

The United Nations Sports for Development and Peace invites sports celebrities or sports superstars to act as goodwill ambassadors to promote awareness about various troubling issues. According to the United Nations, the mass appeal of the players is particularly helpful in bringing attention to various issues such as HIV/ AIDS, education, food and agriculture, drugs, crime, and refugees.

Some Facts about Playing Sports

  • According to the United Nations Sports for Development and Peace, physical activity plays an important role in the development of overall health and prevents various diseases.
  • Apart from preventing diseases, playing sports is an excellent physical activity and thus aids in improving the functional capabilities of the body.
  • Sports are not only beneficial to young people, but also for older generations. However, it is always good to start early. Kids should be encouraged to participate in playing sports at school or at social events.

Make Sports a Part of Your Lifestyle

Playing sports should not be limited to the field of your school, college, or community. Even when you’re at home or working, sparing at least 30 minutes for any sport you love can be very helpful.

It is not advisable to only see sports as a strenuous activity that you are doing for the sake of health. Instead, take it as a hobby and enjoy it. Encourage your family members to be a part of your sport too. This will give a boost to the overall health of the family.

Activities such as cycling, swimming, running, and even walking are some of the physical activities that can be done on a daily basis. It must not be forgotten that playing sports alone will not give you a healthy body and mind. Many other factors such as nutritional intake, the stress levels in your life, or even the clothes or shoes that you’re wearing must also be considered.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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