I have long believed sport to be beneficial to not only your physical health but also your mental health.
And after watching several sporting finals and talking to many local sportspeople in recent weeks there was a glaring factor which stood out.
Team sport is wonderful for forming social bonds and for community engagement.
When I spoke to former Hunter Jaeger and Sydney Swift Narelle Eather after the Newcastle open netball championship decider, she told me it was the people she played with that kept her returning to the court.
At 40, Eather was the oldest player on court. But the inspiring Australian oztag representative and former Australian Netball League player of the year was still probably the fittest out there.
I love that sport bridges age gaps. It puts people on level terms.
Netball has a tradition where after the game both teams take the centre of the court, form a circle and give each other three cheers.
It sends an important message to onlookers. You play the game then despite the outcome you congratulate the other team on participating.
I had a wonderful sporting moment myself the weekend before last. It was after a football grand final and we were having the medal presentation. We were getting a team shot and invited our opposition up with us to get a combined group shot.
I have played football in Newcastle for 20 years and I can’t recall ever doing this. It was actually a really fitting way to end what had been a tough and hard-fought, 110-minute battle. And everyone seemed to enjoy it.
I am not an expert in sociology or mental health but I know how sport makes me feel. It has helped me improve my fitness after each of our three children. It has allowed me socialisation and to develop lifelong friends.
My closest friendships were formed playing sport at university when I first came to Newcastle. In fact, the only friends I made at university were through sport. I found it hard otherwise.
Obviously not everyone likes sport or is able to play sport for certain health reasons. But if you can there are a lot of benefits.
In a review from the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity in 2013, Federation University found many reported psychological and social health benefits. These included improved well-being and decreased stress. In particular, the review found team-based or club-based sport, more so than individual than individual forms of physical activity, to be linked with better health outcomes.
It recommended “participation in sport is advocated as a form of leisure-time for Physical Activity for adults which can produce a range of health benefits”.
Team sport is a huge part of my life and the main way I keep myself physically and mentally fit. But I can only speak for myself.
There are many social summer sports about to begin, and if you are looking to meet people and improve your health at the same time I would suggest this is a great way to do it.
Renee Valentine is a writer, qualified PT and mother of three. firstname.lastname@example.org