Why Watching England’s Lionesses Is So Great For Your Mental Health

And it's not because they keep winning (but that helps).
Guaranteed to make you smile.
DeFodi Images via DeFodi Images via Getty Images
Guaranteed to make you smile.

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Every football fan will tell you the joy of watching your favourite team play, but a new study goes one step further, detailing how it can even boost your mental health.

And with England’s Lionesses set to face Sweden in the Euro 2022 semi-final, it’s yet another reason to get behind the team, who’ve had a record-breaking run so far.

One in two of all sports fans said watching a match helps them socialise more with friends and family, according to the study conducted by charitable social enterprise, Better. Over a third (35%) said it makes them feel part of a community and 33% said it inspires them to be more active.

The researchers asked 2,000 sports fans across the country questions about their daily exercise regimes, their participation in sports, their sport-viewing habits, their fruit and vegetable intake and their alcohol consumption.

They wanted to determine which sports fans are enjoying engaging in a sport and which ones prefer the comfort of their sofas when watching their favourite athletes compete.

The mighty Lionesses will face Sweden in the Euros semi-final.
Visionhaus via Visionhaus/Getty Images
The mighty Lionesses will face Sweden in the Euros semi-final.

“Sport and exercise is brilliant for physical, mental and cognitive health. If it was a pill it would make billions!” said Dr Josephine Perry, a sports psychologist who spoke to Better.

“As well as the physical benefits, the exercise we get through sport gives us structure, purpose, energy and motivation.”

Dr Perry explained that sport also positively alters the way we process and respond to our emotions, reducing “how much we overthink” helping to build up “an emotional resilience to stress”.

“These help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, make us behave differently, boosts our self-esteem and means we reduce any feelings of loneliness by becoming more social,” she added.

The research also found that football fans were the most active across all sports, with 34% getting over 60 minutes of exercise every day. Footie fans were also found to be the least likely to drink more alcohol while watching sport (45%).

Josh Cheetham, a 30-year-old avid Leeds United fan, was not surprised by the research.
“In 2018 I was suffering from depression, I was in a really dark place after a tragic life event, and I didn’t see how I was going to get better. Then I went to a football match, witnessed one of the best matches I’ve ever seen, and I was feeling better as soon as the final whistle blew,” he said.

“When I watch my team at away matches, I am usually on my own, but I don’t see it that way. We all support the same team, we are all one big community and family, you can start talking to anyone around you and immediately feel like you know them and strike up a friendship that lasts for years.”

So, if you haven’t tuned into the Euros yet, what are you waiting for?

England were always a favourite going into this tournament. But whatever the outcome, you’ll get a boost from supporting them.

Move celebrates exercise in all its forms, with accessible features encouraging you to add movement into your day – because it’s not just good for the body, but the mind, too. We get it: workouts can be a bit of a slog, but there are ways you can move more without dreading it. Whether you love hikes, bike rides, YouTube workouts or hula hoop routines, exercise should be something to enjoy.

HuffPost UK / Rebecca Zisser

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