For the majority of us, recreational sports have been something we’ve grown up with. Whether that was playing soccer or swimming (which seem to be the most common options when we were children), sports taught us skills like perseverance, teamwork, and some physical literacy.
Throughout our lives, sports provide us with health benefits impacting both our physical and mental health. Not surprisingly, playing a sport leads us to live longer and healthier lives–especially as we age1.
I am grateful to have been heavily involved in sports when I was growing up because they are still a big part of my life. This has been a large factor in allowing me to be motivated to stay fit and healthy even into my thirties and beyond. Benefits of physical activity in sports include decreased risk of heart disease, lowered cholesterol and blood pressure, well-built muscles and bones, weight management, and increased lung capacity, improving both efficiency and lung function2.
Sports provide tremendous benefits in our cardiovascular endurance. I know that many guys, including myself, find it hard at times to be motivated to run on a treadmill. However, sports provide excellent opportunities to increase our cardiovascular endurance without the need for a treadmill and can be much more enjoyable. I started playing ultimate frisbee two years ago, and I was amazed how much running is involved–I always leave the field drenched! No matter what sport you are into, I think we can all agree that it pushes and challenges our endurance.
Sports have greatly helped with relieving feelings of stress and anxiety. When I’m playing basketball or ultimate frisbee, I become completely focused and present in the moment. This clears my mind and helps me release stress, frustration, anger, and anxiousness through engaging in physical activity. Sports can help to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders3
Recreational sports can provide a sense of “community and the relationships that individuals build on teams with others promote feelings of comfort and acceptance and may reduce emotional problems and insecurities.”4 Sports provide opportunities to meet new people along the way, which is always fun and exciting. I have been very fortunate over the years to meet some great people through recreational sports that I still have connections with to this day.
Now, this does not mean that in order to build relationships with others that you have to play in a league. With the COVID-19 pandemic still at large, this is not possible in the way it once was. However, with summer on the horizon, we can still build community with others safely through activities such as bike riding with friends or family, playing ultimate frisbee, golf, shooting some hoops, and the list goes on. We as a society greatly value human interaction, and it is imperative that we continue to do so safely.
How Sports Have Impacted Me
Sports have played a huge role in my life. As a teenager, playing basketball gave me the opportunity to play at some of the highest levels of competition throughout Canada and also in the United States. I learned discipline through practice, the importance of working out, proper diet, and how this all plays a crucial role in avoiding injury. I learned the value of keeping your teammates accountable and being humble enough to receive constructive criticism.
Sports also taught me principles on my walk with God. Reading God’s word is like training and working out. You workout to get stronger, to live longer and healthier, and also to avoid injury. Reading God’s word helps you grow stronger in your walk with God, to live a long and meaningful life, and to avoid temptations in life. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
Sports is humbling in that it teaches me to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. God is continuing to grow me in my walk with God in that many times I have to stop and catch myself in not acting in love and forgiveness when in the middle of playing sports. 2 Timothy 2:5 says “and athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules”. Being part of recreational sports has allowed me to share my faith with people I would not have met at church or work, and it is so awesome to see how God uses us to reach out to others that come across our path. We as followers of Jesus should be filled with the Holy Spirit and display the fruit of the Spirit, no matter where we are, be it on the field, the driving range, the court, or in the locker room.
1 Amanda MacMillan. “Why Playing a Sport Should Be Your New Workout” Time, time.com/4950641/workout-sports-exercise/#:~:text=People%20who%20play%20a. Accessed March 14, 2021.
2 “The mental health benefits of playing a team sport.” Beyond Blue, beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/wellbeing/the-mental-health-benefits-of-playing-a-team-sport. Accessed March 31, 2021.
4 Pluhar, E., McCracken, C., Griffith, K. L., Christino, M. A., Sugimoto, D., & Meehan, W. P. (2019). “Team Sport Athletes May Be Less Likely To Suffer Anxiety or Depression than Individual Sport Athletes”. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 18(3), 490–496. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683619/#:~:text=We%20also%20found%20th. Accessed March 31, 2021.