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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Japanese Study Finds Sports Viewing Supports Mental Health

Japanese Study Finds Sports Viewing Supports Mental Health

A recent study from Japan has found that watching sports matches not only boosts mental and neurological health but also increases overall well-being.
Researchers at Waseda University highlighted that viewing sports activates the brain's reward circuits, leading to feelings of happiness or pleasure, according to the findings published on Monday in the journal Sport Management Review.

For many people, watching sports has long transcended mere entertainment to become a source of joy and relaxation, especially in large groups. This enhances a sense of belonging and connection among fans, not only satisfying individuals but also benefiting society by improving health, boosting productivity, and reducing crime rates.

Despite widespread recognition of its positive effects, current studies offer limited evidence on the relationship between sports viewing and enhanced well-being. Recognizing this gap, the team conducted three studies to observe the impact of sports viewership on people's health and well-being, utilizing diverse methods including data analysis, surveys, and neuroimaging experiments.

In the first study, data from 20,000 Japanese citizens were analyzed, showing a consistent link between sports viewership and higher levels of well-being. However, the study was limited in its ability to provide a deeper insight into the relationship between sports fandom and well-being.

The second study involved 208 participants who watched sports video clips, with their mental health assessed before and after the viewing. Results indicated that popular sports like baseball had a greater impact on enhancing well-being compared to less popular ones like golf.

The third study employed neuroimaging techniques to examine changes in brain activity after watching sports, revealing that sports viewing activated reward circuits in the brain, enhancing feelings of happiness and pleasure.

The researchers found that individuals who regularly watch sports showed changes in brain structures, indicating the impact of sports viewing on mental health and the brain's structural health.

Professor Shintaro Sato, the lead researcher from Waseda University in Japan, stated, “We found that both subjective and objective measures of well-being are positively influenced by engaging in sports viewing.”

He added on the university's website, "Watching sports matches provides long-term benefits for individuals by creating structural changes in the brain's reward system over time."

For those seeking to improve their overall health, “regularly watching sports, especially popular ones like baseball or football, can serve as an effective therapy,” he noted.

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