Mental Health – The hidden benefits of 5-a-side
Posted by admin on 18th March 2016
Words by Nick Frith
For years mental health has been a subject barely mentioned in football, and even less so in the pub. The classic British stiff upper lip has been in place, with the commonly used footballing phrases of ‘Man Up’ and ‘Run It Off’ making most blokes approach to mental issues quite clear. However, recently this has finally begun to change. It may have taken the tragic deaths of Gary Speed and Robert Enke for many in the sport to realise the importance of mental health, but it is gradually making its way into the public eye. The remarkable fact that the biggest killer of males under 45 is suicide is something that cannot be ignored any longer, and men are finally beginning to talk about mental health. About time too!
The physical benefits of playing 5-a-side are well documented, but what is less known is the fantastic mental health benefits your weekly game can give you. Not only are you going to get a cardio blast, but also boost your mood, decrease stress and increase happiness.
Mood – This is something anyone who has ever played a post-work game of football is has probably experienced without even realising. Ever turned up to play in a grump after a rubbish day, only to find 40 minutes later that you’re more enthusiastic, and things don’t seem quite so bad? That’s the effect of 5-a-side. Research has shown the positive effects exercise can have on mood, both short and long term. Putting on your AstroTurf boots is the first step to happiness!
Stress – Living in London, stress is almost impossible to avoid. From trying to get on the tube on your commute, work deadlines breathing down your neck or counting down the days to payday, stresses are everywhere. So whilst it might be impossible to avoid the cause, dealing with effects is much more straightforward. Stress results in the release of cortisol and adrenalin hormones, which cause the emotional and physical symptoms of stress. Exercise helps use up these hormones and also results in the release of endorphins, thus reducing stress levels and increasing wellbeing.
Self-esteem – This is one area where 5-a-side can really boost your all round mental health. Physical activity can have a positive influence on our self-esteem, leading to increased wellbeing and improving our ability to cope with stress. Basically, if you take on a cold and wet evening of 5-a-side then your confidence will be boosted in other walks of life. If your results on the pitch start improving this can be felt even more – so even losing by 1 less goal than last week can have a positive effect!
Social Interaction – Despite being the most populated city in Europe, London can be a pretty lonely place. Ever tried having a conversation with someone on the Tube? Thought not. The social element of playing a team sport can also have a huge effect of your mental health. Signing up to a team can be a great way to meet people, and a group of friends you see every week is a pretty good support network should you need someone to talk to. Moving to London and starting a new job can be pretty intimidating, so playing some 5-a-side can be a great way to introduce yourself to likeminded people in the city.
Depression – For those with depression, playing sport might feel like the last thing they’d want to do. Low energy levels and anxiety can make sport seem like quite a daunting prospect, but people have found some great results having got out on the pitch. A review of studies has shown that there is evidence that sport can help those with depression – the exact reasons aren’t clear, but as treatments go it seems like a great option.
Sleep – Everyone wants the chance to get more sleep. 5-a-side can’t give you any more hours of shut eye, but it can improve the hours that you get. By increasing blood flow to the brain and helping to relax your muscles, exercising a recommended amount of 150 minutes a week has been shown to increase the quality of your sleep by up to 65%! This can result in better concentration and alertness, making your day in the office much more enjoyable. 5-a-side can offer so much more than a weekly kickabout!
If you’ve ever suffered from depression or anxiety, or never given them a second thought, 5-a-side can do some great things for your mental health. Throw in the physical benefits, enjoyment and how easy it is to play, and 5-a-side continues to be one of the best forms of exercise on offer! With Spring around the corner and evenings getting lighter now is a great time to enter your team into a league. Check out all of our league options here.
If you have been effected by mental health issues, or just want to find out more, there are some great charities offering support and advice:
CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15-35. www.thecalmzone.net
Samaritans – Confidential 24 hour support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Phone – 116 123. www.samaritans.org.uk
Mind – Promotes the view and needs of people with mental health problems. www.mind.org.uk