Introduction - Benefits of Sport
Sport has long been recognized as a psychological outlet for the latent tribal instincts inherent in all of us. It harkens back to the dawn of recorded history when numbers and clan loyalty improves survival odds. Genetic memory fulfils this psychological longing of being part of a greater collective through sport. From the wrestling matches on the southwestern mountains of Mongolia 7,000 years ago to Egyptian athletics events 4,000 years ago and gymnastics competitions of Ancient Greece 3,500 years ago, sports have been an integral part of human civilization throughout the ages.
However, the benefits of sport are not limited to psychosomatic impulses. Instead, there are overwhelming amount of scientific data which demonstrates how sport is capable of providing a myriad of other benefits encompassing areas such as:
Sporting activities improve cardiovascular endurance which reduces the risks of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes, breast cancer and about two dozen other notable diseases. Sports also contribute toward cultivating healthy bone structure and density, which reduces incidences of osteoporosis and hip fractures, among others, later in life. Holistic has become such a clichéd term, however, it is a great description of the relationship between sport and long-term health.
The repetitive movement patterns in sport lead to improvements in coordination, motor skills, cognitive skills and muscle strength. These improvements will significantly enhance the quality of personal and professional lives. The activities also improve the body’s metabolism which helps in preventing obesity and obesity-related health issues. For senior citizens, sport helps maintain and extend mobility.
Participation in sports, especially team sports, promotes a wide range of psychological benefits. Some of the most obvious benefits involve improvements of self-esteem and body image. Sport also develops leadership skills, patience, emotional control and perseverance. Strong correlations have also been established between involvement in sports and academic achievements, mainly through improvements in mental and physical stamina. For working adults, sport has been proven to reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline through the release of neuropeptides like endorphins (especially β-Endorphin and β-lipotrophin) by the brain. Numerous studies over the last three decades have conclusively proven that endorphins generated during physical activity stimulate varying levels of euphoria, contentment and happiness.
The camaraderie and esprit des corps experienced during group sporting activities greatly enhances the social skills of participations. Sport also teaches about teamwork and strategy, and avail networking opportunities which are transferable to academic and professional settings. Communities active in sports and with adequate playing arenas and equipment for youths also experience decrease crime rates and lower levels of truancy.
In 2012, sport and sport-related activities accounted for 2.33% (£21.03 billion) of UK’s gross domestic product – larger than the transportation industry. The sector provides employment for almost half a million people. To put the figure into perspective, in 2014, the film industry generates total revenues of only £4.6 billion and employs 44,000 people. Sport also provides indirect boost the economy. Take the English Premier League for example. Aside from direct revenues generated from broadcasting rights, tickets, sponsorships and merchandising, the EPL also indirectly increase revenues for other industries such as hospitality, cable and broadband, transportation, etc.
In summary, sport, beyond boosting nationalistic pride at international sporting competitions, can play an integral role in developing a healthier and more productive Britain.