Sports

Why Sports Are Important

Getting to Know Why Sports Are Important

runners running sports track

The question of why sports are important is one that spans enough aspects and facets to warrant its own encyclopedia. To put it bluntly, there is a whole lot that goes into the specific critical nature of sports and physical activity.

Some of the reasons are quite obvious and perhaps a bit intuitive when we think about them. Most people will understand that participating in sports is a boon to one’s overall health. Some might even focus in on the psychological benefits of joining in on organized sporting activities.

Still, this topic often delves deeper than this, prompting more than a little scholarly research. We want to delve a bit deeper into why sports important in the first place. Are there truly as many benefits to sporting activities as we think?

Is there a chance that we are perhaps overrating and overvaluing sports, to begin with? Spoiler alert: we don’t think so!

An exploratory look at the advantages of sports

Our primary issue is beginning with an exploratory look at the most commonly known advantages of sports and why people consider them critical. But, going a bit further than that, we are keen on examining the benefits to us from an individual and societal perspective. Thanks to a wealth of available research – spanning biology, sociology, and even political science – we have more than enough information from which to glean a serviceable point.

This guide isn’t a think piece. It isn’t an over-complicated “deep dive” into something that we all have a simple definition for. On the contrary, it’s just a digestible answer to a question that maintains relevance even today. From those of us wondering if getting into sports is a good idea at all, all the way to people who might be feeling a bit disenchanted after years of participating, we’ve got you covered.

You can bookmark this and come back to it, section by section, whenever you begin to wonder just exactly what it is that makes sports so important.

On the Surface: General reasons why sports are important

football players field

Alright, so let’s get into what most of us might already know. Participating in sports puts you at a decreased risk of a growing number of diseases and chronic conditions. Without requiring the everyday person to be an elite athlete, small intervals of high-intensity exercise lead to a decreased likelihood of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and hypertension. And, frankly, that’s just the very top of the list of ailments!

The notion of participating in sports can often seem like you’re being asked to do things that you thought only the best athletes could do. But, participating in your local leagues or simply heading out to your local park is something even the United Nations endorses.

Specifically, the UN’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport For Development and Peace notes that sports are extremely beneficial to bone health as well as amplifying lung and heart function. Those are no small benefits to receive from anything we do, but sports seem to be an objectively efficient way to go about helping our own health.

The report from the UN’s Task Force goes on to stress the benefits of even making simple daily activities easier. Regular participation in sports has a noted effect on one’s motor skills as well as the speed at which we learn new skills. You can imagine how easily that translates to work and/ or school life!

Though these are largely accepted reasons for why sports are important, there’s even more that may ring a bell or two. Participating in sporting activities has also shown to have a positive effect on our psychological well-being. For this, we go to a report by the World Health Organization, which presents some fascinating perspective on the matter.

Sports as a means of mental and physical health improvement

player basketball court
According to the WHO, 25% of all patients who check in to a health service around the world suffer from “at least one mental, neurological or behavioral disorder.” The organization also notes that an alarming number of these conditions much too often go untreated and manifest themselves in more harmful ways down the road.

Of course, considering the daily stresses that even the youngest of us must endure on a daily basis, this may not come as much of a surprise to most of us. But, the shocking part of the report involved the introduction of sports into one’s life. According to the WHO, there is strong evidence to suggest that increased physical activity may in fact “play a therapeutic role in addressing a number of psychological disorders.”

Sure, we all love a bit of research, but what can we take away from this?

It will likely come as no surprise to us to hear that sports can help certain mental or behavioral issues we face. That is one of the most common recommendations from professionals to lifestyle bloggers alike when we are faced with overwhelming stress and/ or anxiety. It makes a lot of sense too.

Most of us can relate to an increased feeling of satisfaction or happiness not long after exerting ourselves on a run or playing some basketball. Even when our muscles ache and we are drained of energy, there is a recorded rush of endorphins that register in our brains and helps ease the effects of regular stressors.

And yet, we’re still faced with a question here. You may be wondering how any of this relates to sporting activities in the bigger picture. After all, you can gain benefits from physical activities simply by working out or going on a run all by yourself. Why does anyone need to force themselves into organized sports?

Sports as Teamwork

Now that we know why physical activity as a whole can be such a benefit, let’s take some time to explore the importance of sports from a team perspective. While going out and breaking a sweat all by your lonesome has been shown to bring a world of benefits – as we mentioned above – it turns out that there’s even more good to come from organized team activity.

To hone in on this point, we turn to research done by the London School of Economics on this very matter. According to the work done by these scholars, it just so happens that playing a sport as part of a team results in increased levels of satisfaction. This feeling isn’t just associated with the activity or sport in question but satisfaction with life as a whole. Team sports are therefore way more than just its plain practice.

This is another one of those pieces of research that makes a sort of intuitive sense once you give it some thought. Think about an instance when you were part of a team, regardless of the sport. Sure, the feelings associated with things like losing or under performing felt a bit worse than if you were by yourself.

But, the victories and positives were absolutely unforgettable. There is a sense of deeper satisfaction that comes about when you’ve achieved something with a group of people who were working towards the same goal. That is the sentiment that the London School of Economics researchers found in their work and it’s something a lot of us can relate to, both in sports and outside of them.

Why sports are important for youth development

As countless articles and blogs note, the stressors of everyday life are getting more and more cumbersome for children. What’s more alarming is that the ability of children to deal with this regular stress seems to be getting diminishing support. Well, there a number of ways that we can supply this help.

One of the most effective of these approaches involves sporting activities. Don’t look now, but we’ve got some more research coming your way! This time, we take a look at the work done by the Australian Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative. According to their research, children can be assisted in dealing with and managing stress by developing their sense of optimism.

This can be done in a growing number of ways, but the most common is simply showing them what it looks like to approach life’s stressors positively. We can very logically make that connection with why sports are important.

When you involve children in team activities, they are put in a position where they have to use their observational capacity. As most of us will no doubt know, children are like sponges. What they constantly see is what they learn and incorporate into their life as behaviors. Well, that’s where team sports come in.

When surrounded by the many moving pieces of people reacting positively as a team to stressful situations, children’s observational capacity is set to overdrive. They see things like teammates laughing when things aren’t going well, working a bit harder when they happen to be losing, and being positive with their teammates. These become learned habits and approaches that kids can readily apply to several other parts of their lives.

If we go a bit further than that, we see that there are more positives to take away from youth sports. Kids also see teammates helping each other up when they fall and congratulating each other while also being respectful to their opponents. This is a learning mechanism that directly opposes kids’ negative reactions to stressors in sports and even at their future jobs. This is where we see the value of sports and games.

Sports and American culture

In America, the concept of sports goes far beyond the field of play and a simple thing as a sports ball. It isn’t just something to pass the time and it often spills over into our daily lives. Professional sports – from football and basketball to baseball and tennis – permeate conversations with the same heat of political debates.

Even when we look at the coverage and discussions surround sports on television, it all comes across as bigger than the actual game itself. There are talk shows that broadcast screaming matches between millionaire journalists, sports teams worth billions of dollars, and time dedicated on prominent news channels just for sports. Considering all of this, it’s understandable to be left wondering: why are sports so important in American culture?

The answer isn’t incredibly complex but comes across as elegant. American sports are an effective mirror mechanism for the country’s history. Perhaps the best example of this is baseball. Baseball’s background spans so far back that it was a presence even the American Civil War of the late 1800s.

It’s a sport that became one of the main stages to play out the country’s history with racism as well. The tensions within baseball alone helped the average American citizen understand what these larger concepts represented. More importantly, sports helped people to place themselves within that historical narrative in a way that made sense to them.

To listen to a seasoned politician tell the story of an issue is one (often complicated) thing. But, to see that same issue play out on your TV screen or at the local home team’s game? That’s something that hits close to home. Thus, sports are an immutable part of American culture thanks to their ability to help us understand the societal shifts of the country as a whole.

Importance of sports in modern society

So far, we’ve talked about the benefits of sports in some rather broad terms. The health benefits, while admittedly specific, are what we commonly associate with sports. The same goes for youth development. We use some academic and scientific resources in going through it, but the notion of sports being beneficial for youth development isn’t exactly disputed.

With that being said, there is one approach to why sports are important that tends to fly under the radar. It’s not quite disputed or argued about in too critical a tone but it’s still left on the bottom of many social agendas. Specifically, we rarely discuss what participating in sports does to make it so important in modern society.

The Ministry of Justice in England is an ideal example. They’ve put together a sports program that puts extra effort into reforming at-risk youths. The program brings these young people in contact with a mentor, connecting them to a local chapter of a sports league and getting them involved in an organized sport. The effect here is almost painfully simple.

On the surface, the whole idea revolves around keeping these at-risk kids distracted by something productive like a sport. In doing so, as the theory goes, you get to prevent any sort of potentially criminal behavior by keeping that energy going in a positive direction.

But, sports also serve as a societal benefit in a deeper way. Programs such as that of the Ministry of Justice are a way to help those who may have been through the prison system more productively acclimate back to day-to-day life. It turns out that the stress-relief and productive energy use that comes with organized sports can be a great way to get back into the regular rhythms of life.

Importance all around

two person kayaking water

Sports are important in our lives for a multitude of reasons. As we’ve discussed above, the concept of sports come with enough benefits to warrant a considerable amount of attention. All over the world, both public and private entities are increasing their spending on organized sports programs.

And, honestly, why wouldn’t they? Extensive amounts of research have shown that involvement in sports can lead to benefits from earlier in life as kids and even with people who happen to fall foul of the law. The more that people partake in the organized physical activity, the more prepared they are for the stressors that life is sure to bring them.

Likewise, more sports and physical exertion results in improved biological markers like better heart and lung function. All of these advantages show us why sports are important on a holistic level. That just leaves one other question: should you, as an individual get involved in sports?

Simply put, the answer will depend on you and only you. The decision to get yourself into any sport – whether individual or team-oriented – is about personal fit. You could have a work schedule that allows just enough time for a quick work out – and that would be fine! You could have family responsibilities or any number of physical ailments. But, we simply hope this guide serves as a productive way to think about sports and the many benefits one can glean from them.

If you don’t face any of the above-mentioned limitations holding you back, perhaps you’re struggling with the motivation it takes to just get out there and play. In that case, we present our whole point behind this guide: sports are important not just at an individual level, but for essentially everyone that takes part from all angles. At the very least, that makes sports participation worth a shot!

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: Sport and Dev, The Telegraph, Sport England

Image Credit: Unsplash