Watching Sports May Increase Your Well-Being

Frequent sports viewing may induce changes in brain structures, possibly explaining how the activity improves well-being.

You don't need to be a scientist to tell that watching a soccer match where your favorite team is playing makes you feel good. However, until now, the mechanisms behind increased well-being due to viewing sports have not been fully understood.

A study led by the researchers at Waseda University, Japan, suggests that those who watch sports more frequently experience changes in brain structures.

The study, published in the journal Sports Management Review in March, employed a multi-method approach.

In the first study, the researchers analyzed publicly available data on the impact of watching sports on 20,000 Japanese residents. The study confirmed higher reported well-being associated with regular sports viewing.

The second study, an online survey involving 208 participants, investigated whether reported well-being varied depending on the type of sport. Baseball, was found to exert a more significant impact on enhancing well-being compared to golf.

In the third study, the researchers used neuroimaging techniques to analyze alterations in the brain activity of 14 participants while they watched sports clips. Sports viewing triggered activation in the brain's reward circuits, indicative of feelings of happiness or pleasure.

Additionally, the structural image analysis revealed that individuals who reported watching sports more frequently exhibited greater gray matter volume in regions associated with reward circuits. This suggests that regular sports viewing may gradually induce changes in brain structures.

The new research supports previous findings that watching sports may have significant mental health benefits. A 2023 study discovered that attending live sporting events improves life satisfaction and reduces loneliness. Moreover, it adds a sense of "life being worthwhile" as much as gaining employment.

Shintaro Sato, an associate professor at Waseda University and the new study's lead author, said watching sports fosters long-term benefits for individuals.

Sato said in a statement, "For those seeking to enhance their overall well-being, regularly watching sports, particularly popular ones such as baseball or soccer, can serve as an effective remedy."


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