Engaging in Team Sports for Greater Well-Being

November 1, 2021

Louis Tay

There is a long history of research that shows that exercise leads to better mental health and well-being. Recently, researchers have asked the question, “Does participating in an organized sport provide a greater benefit than exercising alone?” 

An analysis of a large sample of child and adolescent athletes comparing organized sports versus exercising alone by Pluhar et al. (2019) found that “organized sports participation is associated with a decreased risk of anxiety, depression, feelings of hopelessness, [and] suicidal ideation ... above exercise alone” This suggests not all exercise is equivalent. For those seeking to improve their well-being, they may reap the greatest benefit from participating in an organized sport instead of simply working out alone.  

Shannon Sturt

Fascinatingly, even among organized sports,  team sports have a significantly greater impact on well-being than individual sports. This is because team sports have a social component and culture of teamwork that promote social skills, confidence, and a sense of belonging. On the other hand, individual sports players internalize success and failure to a greater extent than team players, which can negatively affect their well-being. 

These findings suggest that if you are seeking to promote your well-being, you may wish to engage not only in individual exercise but also in finding ways to participate in team sports! 


Be well,

Shannon Sturt and Louis Tay

Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week! 

Shannon Sturt is an undergraduate student at Purdue University in her 2nd year. She plans to complete a degree in Applied Statistics with minors in Management and Communications. 

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