The psychology of why watching sports activities makes us match

You read Move, but the stimulus we need to get active makes us happiest and healthiest.

One fun thing happens after a big sporting event hits our televisions: fitness centers, gyms, and sports clubs are seeing an increase in new members.

It happened after the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup when 850,000 more women signed up to play football. Then again during and immediately after Wimbledon in the same year when the Lawn Tennis Association saw casual seat bookings grow by around 49%.

So just imagine how much Team GB matched the glory of London 2012 and recorded their highest total Olympic medal record of all time in the past 14 days in Tokyo with an unbelievable 22 gold, 21 silver and 22 bronze medals – a total of 65 medals.

After the 2020 pandemic forced the cancellation of so many sporting events and events, the gold mine of summer 2021 was all the more inspiring. From the multi-screening of the Euros and Wimbledon to a completely new cricket tournament at The Hundred to the Olympics and the upcoming Paralympics – we’ve never been more ready to tune in and then train.

The participation dates for the year are yet to be released, but we would invest a lot of money to make them big. So why do we want to get sporty ourselves while watching sports?

Team GB athletes celebrate their triumphs on the track in Tokyo

“Watching sport lets us recognize the power of community and triggers the feeling of belonging that we all long for,” says sports psychologist Dr. Josie Perry, whose audiobook The 10 Pillars of Success is out on August 15th, is the toughest thing to achieve great things and look awesome, and we want a piece of it, too. We want to feel part of this world. “

The attraction we feel when we watch top athletes is so strong that it is felt even by other sports professionals. Five-time Olympian Jo Pavey tells HuffPost UK that watching TV inspires her to try other sports – even when they’re outside of her own comfort zone of long-distance running. And what applies to adults also applies to children, says Pavey, who narrowly missed a place in Tokyo.

“When England played football at the European Championship, it inspired all of us to keep playing football games in the garden. When Wimbledon is on, we tend to play tennis, ”says the mother of two.

“I think it’s great for kids to see role models on TV as it inspires them to try different things. I also find it motivating to watch the determination of athletes competing at various events. “

A top-class tournament not only inspires many of us to try something new, it can also remind us of past sporting fun, adds Dr. Perry added. Watching a sport that we have tried ourselves “helps us remember the joy we have had and the feeling that we have mastered aspects of it,” she says.

The Summer Olympics, with 339 events and 33 different sports, is the ultimate opportunity to reminisce – even if we just laugh at how awful we were at javelin at school and wonder if we’d do better now.

The Olympians understand this effect. “That’s why we’re all here because sport has an incredible power to inspire people and hopefully this will be amazing motivator for people,” said swimmer Adam Peaty after winning Team GB’s first ever gold medal.

They also understand that exercise is about both the mind and the body. Never before has a game shed light on the relationship between physical and mental health so clearly – as US gymnast Simone Biles showed the world when she prioritized both.

For this reason, HuffPost UK has chosen this moment to relaunch our fitness space as Move – a renewed commitment to celebrate movement in all its forms and to put accessibility first. Our goal is to come up with a ton of ideas on how to get active, but will make you the happiest and healthiest – but we’ll also experience real motivation and address the barriers that keep so many of us from getting more exercise.

Take part after a major sporting event. We know that thousands of people sign up after watching sports on TV, but we also know that a lot of people drop out soon after.

According to a study by Procter & Gamble, a quarter of people have given up certain sports because they thought they weren’t good enough. Another 16% of people were turned off from a sport because they felt that it did not conform to the stereotype of how people who practice this sport should “look”. For many, the pandemic and long indoor stays have only exacerbated such worries, especially among those who have historically felt excluded from the fitness community and not taken care of in gyms and sports centers.

Research by the Disability Charity Scope for its new Make It Count initiative – also known as “Moving People” – has shown that almost half (48%) of disabled people have become less active since the pandemic began. Four in 10 (40%) said they never did sport or were physically active. but 91% want to be more active.

So how do we take inspiration and energy from a summer of sport like this and use it when the media hype has subsided? And how can we shake off the inner critic who tells us we’ll never be as good as the pros?

Hannah Cockroft is one of Team GB's high hopes for the Tokyo Paralympics.

Hannah Cockroft is one of Team GB’s high hopes for the Tokyo Paralympics.

Well, we can start stealing some motivational tactics from top athletes, says Jeremy Snape, a former English cricketer and sports psychologist who hosts the Inside the Mind of Champions podcast.

“We have this myth that elite performers wake up every morning eager to do their painful workout and will do so for eight or ten years without a break, but that’s not true,” he tells HuffPost.

“A professional athlete, that’s your job. While their motivation flows up and down through the various training cycles, their commitment remains the same. “

A professional athlete’s commitment – or the ultimate goal – can be winning a particular tournament or setting a new world record. You’ll use a number of tactics to visualize not only what this might look like, but also what it might feel like, says Snape. They can envision a social gathering where they show the family this trophy or use an inspirational picture as their phone’s screensaver that will make them feel good about their ambition.

Team GB's mixed relay triathlon team shows its gold medals

Team GB’s mixed relay triathlon team shows its gold medals

You may have an obligation to get fitter so you don’t get so tired during the work week or play with your kids without getting out of breath. Snape recommends thinking about how great this feels instead of focusing on something static – like weight loss – as a goal.

If your motivation is high, for example after watching sports on TV, he suggests setting up “architecture” when it inevitably wears off. This could be signing up for a class or laying out your fitness kit with your phone alarm in your shoe.

“Chances are, when we wake up we think the bedspread is going to hit us, but when your alarm goes off in your sneakers and everything is set up, you have a 90% higher chance that you’ll ‘I’ll pull this off”, he says. “The hardest part of a run is getting out the front door.”

Pavey recommends listening to music before and during your workout to “get going,” work out with friends, and plan what you will do after your workout. “But the most important thing is to enjoy it,” she says. “If you lack motivation, try varying your workouts or take the time to exercise in beautiful scenery as it can be so uplifting.”

And when self-doubt creeps in, remember that every move is a positive move – and you don’t have to look like a top athlete to participate.

“When we look at Olympians, we have to look at the qualities we are striving for. Things like their personal discipline, selflessness in teams, [their] Well-being. “

“You have to remember that it’s these people’s job and they studied and sacrificed for 15 years to look like this. Some of them started their education when they were five, ”says Snape.

“The way you look at a doctor and say, ‘Wow, that’s amazing’, you won’t just become a doctor within two weeks with good intentions, because there are a number of training courses and skills that go into it. I think when we look at Olympians we have to look at the qualities we are striving for – things like their personal discipline, the selflessness in teams, things like [their] Well-being. “

It can also help find inspiration near where you live, says Dr. Perry. “It could be the person at Parkrun who is like you, but a little faster, or the guy at your football club who worked incredibly hard on his fitness that inspires you,” she says.

“They give us what is known as ‘vicarious trust’. Knowing that they can help us believe we can too. So take a look at friends and acquaintances – who is doing well and what would you like to imitate? “

Most importantly, give yourself permission to take things slowly and celebrate every victory, whether it’s your first time swimming a distance or feeling less out of breath as you walk to the end of the street.

“I think the pandemic taught us that being outside and being active is incredibly liberating from a mental health perspective,” says Snape. “For top athletes as well as for the average person, we should judge ourselves not by the result, but by our progress.”

Move celebrates movement in all its forms, with accessible features that encourage you to bring movement into your day – because it’s good for not just the body but the mind as well. We get it: workouts can be a little strenuous, but there are ways you can get more exercise without worrying about it. Whether you love hiking, biking, YouTube workouts, or hula hoop routines, exercise should be fun.

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