Head of Human Science at the Academy, Philippa McGregor, speaks about the ways football is beneficial for people’s mental health.

How is playing football good for your health?

Everyone is on the spectrum of physical and mental health with certain things triggering problems or an imbalance in one or both of these areas.

Happier and relaxed…

Playing football, or being actively involved in other types of sporting activity, promotes mental health through triggering chemicals that can make you feel happier and relaxed. Football being a team sport is particularly beneficial as it not only promotes fitness but also offers social benefits through allowing you to connect with others that have similar interests.

Human beings are said to have three basic psychological needs.

- Competence – the perception that you have the ability to do something i.e. play football

- Relatedness – the sense of feeling like you belong (being around people similar to yourself)

- Autonomy – feeling you have control and can make your own decisions and choices

Meeting these needs promotes healthy mental and physical well-being. The more successful we are in what we do builds our perception of competence, the more connected we feel to others in regards to our similarities, increases our sense of relatedness, and the more we make choices to engage in activities that interest us promotes our feeling of autonomy.  

Concentration and decision making…

A game like football can also help improve your mental skills like concentration, decision making – it’s a game that requires you to think throughout stimulating brain activity which in turn has mental health benefits.

Stress release…

Football as a means of physical activity can also act as a distractor/release from daily stresses. It can help reduce the level of stress hormones in your body and stimulate the production of mood enhancing hormones – these natural mood lifters can also help in feeling more relaxed and positive when they are boosted after a game.

Sleep quality…

Football can be hard work, it can tire you out (depending how hard you work of course) this in turn will help improve quality of sleep, helping you fall asleep faster and into a deeper sleep. A good sleep helps improve your outlook on the day ahead and boosts your mood. Caution: Try not to exercise too late as it might leave you too energized to sleep.

This article is part of Vitality’s Bring a Ball campaign, which encourages everyone to get outside and have a kickabout, wherever you are, whoever you’re with.

Life’s more fun when you Bring a Ball.

Vitality’s health and life insurance rewards you for being active. To find out more, visit www.vitality.co.uk.