When you’re young, being involved in sports and activities comes naturally. Whether it’s afterschool intramurals, a minor hockey or baseball league, or even just playing soccer in the schoolyard at lunch, kids are constantly staying active and reaping the benefits of team sports.
Can you remember the moment that stopped being the norm in your life? For me, it was directly after high school graduation. I had been playing high school softball, but when I transitioned to university, organized sports went out the window for me, and I’m not the only one.
A study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health states that adult participation in team sports takes a significant drop, from 41 per cent to a mere 26 per cent involvement, around age 25. Reasons include everything from a lack of time and energy to limited resources or opportunities. But whatever the barriers may be, I’m learning that finding a way to break through them is absolutely worth it.
It’s no secret that staying active and participating in team sports has countless benefits regardless of age, but it’s increasingly important for adults. Regular physical activity reduces blood pressure, boosts cardiovascular health, benefits memory and learning, decreases the risk of cognitive decline, and so much more. On top of the physical benefits, team sports are proven to decrease stress, build confidence, and enhance a healthy competitiveness amongst adults.
Last summer, I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and join a women’s softball team. After getting over my initial nervousness, I immediately discovered what I had been missing in my years without team sports. I had 20 new friends: strong women who encouraged and supported me and kept me laughing until my stomach hurt.
As I developed new skills and relationships, my confidence also grew, along with my ability to laugh at myself and refuse to take life too seriously. It was so much easier to get myself to the field than it was to drag myself to the gym. Suddenly, I found myself looking forward to exercise, and if you know me at all… that isn’t the norm. Over the past two years, something as simple as a summer softball league has given me so much more than I could have ever anticipated.
As researchers continue to explore the benefits of encouraging adults to participate in team sports, I find myself completely in their corner. Whether you’re ready to jump back into team sports or are interested in trying it out for the first time, I encourage you to find a league in your area and give it a shot. You never know what you could gain from the experience!
Jill Ellsworth is a writer and communications specialist who lives in Dominion, N.S. Her column appears biweekly across the SaltWire Network. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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