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Become a Diehard to Live Longer

Stadiums, gyms, and fields are filled with men and women dressed from head to toe in their team’s colors, holding encouraging signs and babies with painted faces. The passionate rivalry and hunger for victory on the court begins to spread through the crowd. Arenas are quickly divided as the supporters of each team compete to be the loudest in the league or to be named the best fans of their sport. They travel from state to state, standing in snow and rain through the wins and losses. Parents introduce their children to the lifestyle, and another generation of diehards is created. But is it healthy to be a sports fan?

Over the years, sports have become a significant aspect of our culture, and this significance continues to expand. Children are being introduced at younger ages and the intensity of each competition has magnified. Some may label the world of sports and all that comes with it as being “too extreme” or “insignificant,” but the human body has a different response. According to a number of studies, being a sports fan is actually beneficial to physical, emotional, and psychological health.

An article published by Prevention suggests the connections created by people who follow the same team, or sports in general, add years to their lives. “Maintaining a strong social network, especially one with healthy pals, improves your chance of living longer by 50%. It doubles your odds of surviving cancer and wards off colds,” according to a Brigham Young University study. Meeting up at a friend’s house for a Super Bowl party or carpooling to a Blackhawks game create friendships and bonds that drastically improve physical health.

These social ties also create a sense of belonging that boosts emotional and psychological health. When fans step into Arrowhead Stadium wearing Dwayne Bowe jerseys, they instantly become part of the “Chiefs Kingdom.” When University of Illinois students from all different states and countries stand side by side to cheer on their classmates, they become part of the “Orange Krush.” Sports create a bond between people who might otherwise have nothing in common. Being able to identify with a group and experiencing social acceptance is a crucial part of boosting self-esteem. This sense of belonging is also created between fans and the team itself. For better or worse, people tend to experience emotions along with the players, such as the high of a win, the low of a loss, the exhilaration of an overtime goal, and the heartbreak of a missed free throw.

Following sports greatly exercises the brain and increases its function. According to an Everyday Health article, “In one University of Chicago study, hockey players and fans listening to a hockey game broadcast used more parts of their brain, especially those related to controlling, planning, and performing, than a group of nonfans listening to the same broadcast.” Keeping the brain engaged for a few hours a day while watching the Masters can extend its capabilities and improve its health, which could help prevent neurological disorders.

Walt Whitman once wrote of baseball, “It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.” We knew these words to be true the moment we walked into the stadium as kids, and now science agrees: Become a diehard to live longer. Let’s go, Mets!


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