“People who are still choosing which sport to take up this January should pick something that involves a team, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the London School of Economics found that by playing sport in a team participants not only gain the health benefits of exercise, but can boost long-term happiness.

In the study of 459 athletes those in teams reported being more satisfied with their lives overall.

Britain is one of the least active countries in Europe, with a new study by Sport England showing that around one third of people do not get at least 30 minutes of exercise a week. The recommended level is 150 minutes of moderate exercise.

The new research suggests that joining a team can improve both physical and mental health.

One of the papers authors, Dr Chia-Huei Wu, Assistant Professor of Management at LSE, said:  “When competing and succeeding in sport, this study shows that the social environment of the team is important in terms of overall life-satisfaction.

“We found that this can be explained by the social interaction and feelings of identity that comes from being a team member, which are not as present when an athlete pursues their own individual goals.

“There are important lessons in this study for those participating in sport at any level, as playing in a team environment will bring a range of benefits beyond the health benefits of exercise.

“Joining a team may bring feelings of belonging with your teammates, and being satisfied with your team may help you be satisfied with your life.”

The authors analysed data people between the ages 12 to 20 years who were recruited from a diverse range of sports, such as swimming, athletics, basketball, and cycling, and asked about their life satisfaction levels at three intervals over a six month period.

At the end of the survey, it was found that athletes who have higher satisfaction with their team tended to report higher life-satisfaction. This in turn led to further increases in positive feelings towards their team.

The authors suggest that the social aspect of competing and training as part of a team, and the personal relationships that develop through the group interactions, all boost happiness.

Additionally, the psychological benefits of team membership, such as feelings of belonging and social identity, were also likely to be factors, they said.

For example, team membership could help people overcome adversity and deal with failure, as the support network available in the team meant athletes were better equipped to face the mental and physical challenges they encountered.” – 

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