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Sport doesn't just have physical benefits. It's also a great way to socialise, have fun and improve your wellbeing. Joe Gorman explores all the good stuff that comes along with sport.

This can help if:

  • you’re curious about the links between exercise and mental health
  • you want inspiration to get involved in sport
  • you want to know how sport can help with stress.
Girls playing soccer

Sport is fun

A famous American footballer once said, ‘You know what my favourite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.’ These days, we’re being fed more sport than ever. Television stations cover the cricket, the NRL and the AFL, while there are countless ways to talk or read about sport on the internet. We can even ‘play’ sport on the X Box or the computer, taking the reins of Manchester United on the virtual football field or impersonating Tony Hawk at the skate park.

But, in the end, all this is just a distraction from the real fun of actually playing sport. Whether you’re part of an organised team on the weekends, at the oval during lunch breaks from work or school, or even out on your own, nothing beats the simple pleasure of playing a sport. It’s a chance for us to compete, to bond with friends and family, and to be active.

Sport builds character

More than just benefiting your physical health, sport is also great for building character. It’s said that to know how to win, you must first know how to lose. Anybody who has lost a grand final, missed an open goal, or gotten out for a duck knows how deeply sport can affect us on an emotional level.

It’s not just about winning

Still, temporary setbacks only make participating in sport a richer experience. I remember my soccer team going through a nasty losing streak. What started as a miserable experience ended up bringing the team closer together, as we fought to win just one game.

As we were only kids, our coaches decided that the best way to keep our spirits up was to give us a fun incentive. If we won a game, they promised to let us throw water bombs at them. Week after week, they brought a packet of water bombs to the game just in case we won. But we kept losing. Even so, at the end of the season we hurled the water bombs at our two coaches, and eventually at each other.

It was a strange kind of bonding experience, especially during a cold winter, but it was an excellent reminder that losing isn’t the end of the world. We had great fun. I remember that season more fondly than all the others, even though we finished in last place.

Stress less off the field

Sometimes, going for a jog, swimming laps at the pool, playing a round of golf or riding your bike can be a way of freeing your mind of things that are worrying you. Once you get into a rhythm, the stresses of work, school or uni fade away. There are few better ways to put the mind at ease.

Psychologists refer to totally immersing yourself in an activity as the ‘flow theory’. Playing sport has huge benefits in terms of improved concentration and focus. Whether you’re part of a team trying to win a football match, or on your own attempting learn a new dance routine, all of life’s other stresses seem to slip away.

We all have to deal with our own personal pressures, anxieties and setbacks. When we can, it’s good to talk about these things with friends and family. But sometimes, it’s also nice just to free our minds and do something that makes us happy, such as kick a ball around or practise yoga.

What can I do now?

  • Check out 5 other great ways to get some exercise here.
  • Do some research to find out what local sport teams are in your area and get playing.
  • If you hate sport but want to do some exercise, check out the hater's guide to exercise.