Everyone loves an underdog’s victory against the team favored to win. Or the last minute penalty shootout that grasps victory in the final game.

Many people relish success on the field, and are passionate about their favorite teams. But the question begs to be asked: Is it healthy to be obsessed with sports?

Does the physical exercise that comes with playing sports as beneficial to us as we think it is, or is it simply an enjoyable practice that represents fun leisure time? What does the research say in this regard?

For starters, it is agreed that physical exercise is beneficial for both mind and body, And it is absolutely true. Exercise, especially when we are young, has many health benefits, such as improving bone strength, reducing cholesterol levels, and decreasing the risk of conditions like diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure.

Additionally, the brain produces several natural substances during exercise, including a class of hormones called “endorphins”. These naturally-occurring hormones, which control our perception to pleasure and pain in the body’s nervous system, are able to provide a feeling of euphoria, or what is often called “runner’s high”.

High levels of endorphins, and repeated physical exercise in general, can increase your focus and enhance your mood, memory, and overall mental function. But does that mean that we derive the same benefits from working out five times a week as competing on a sports team?

How much do we benefit if we actually join a team and compete, versus simple exercise? Well, this is the interesting part: Studies show that if you participate with a group in a sport that you love, there are many positives to be gained that exceed the physical and mental benefits when exercising alone. The most important benefits are psychological benefits.

Some of those benefits come from the social experience of being on a team, such as learning to trust and rely on others, accepting help, lending a hand, and working together to achieve a common goal. Besides that, committing to a team and participating in something that’s fun can contribute greatly to your motivation to getting regular exercise.

It turns out that participation in school sports reduces the risk of depression for several years.

In the meantime, your sense of esteem and self-confidence could receive a substantial lift as well. This is due to a few factors.

One of them is exercise. Once you practice honing your skills, especially when accompanied by the help of a good coach, you reinforce a mindset that seeks to mature within yourself.

The mindset that says, “Even if I can’t do it today, I can improve myself by training and eventually achieve it.” This frame of mind is useful in all aspects of life.

There is also learning by failure, This is one of the most beneficial and long-lasting benefits of exercising. An attitude that accepts occasional defeat will build resilience and self-awareness necessary to overcome scholastic, social and physical obstacles.

Which means that even if your team doesn’t always win (or not at all), there is are positive takeaways to your experience.

Of course, not everyone is suited for every sport. Maybe a team is overly competitive, or not competitive enough. The search for a sport and a team that matches your strengths can take time, but that’s OK.

If you spend a little time researching, you will find a sport and team that suits your individual needs – and when you do, there will be many benefits.

You will be part of a supportive community. You will build confidence. You will exercise your body. And you will change your mind.

Not to mention all the fun you’ll have.