Monday, June 16, 2014

World Cup Health: Are You a Sports Fan?

Are there health benefits or risks of being a super sports fan? 

He shoots, he scores! And, the crowd goes wild. You can hear their roar. Hundreds of excited fans flood the streets, waving their team’s flag proudly, while horns honk in response. In homes across the country, viewers at home jump in excitement while embracing their friends, with giddy grins on their faces. A last minute win – the true sports fan’s dream. It's World Cup time -  is it affecting your health?

Sports fans of all kinds will be glued to the television with the summer season of sports ramping up. Rooting for your team can affect your health, both positively and negatively. It’s absolutely amazing that simply watching a sporting event can change your mood, hormones in your body, and they way you eat.

You’re In the Game

Oh, there is nothing quite like that feeling of glory when your team wins. Who doesn’t like to identify with successful people or teams and enjoy basking in the reflected glory? In fact, psychology researchers suggest watching your favourite team win increases self-esteem, mood, cortisol and testosterone levels.

When saliva samples of 21 male fans watching a World Cup soccer match were compared, testosterone levels increased in fans of the winning team, and decreased in fans of the losing team. The Challenge Hypothesis can explain the rise in testosterone: testosterone levels of watchers increase in preparation to defend or enhance their social status.

World Cup Science Study

During the 2010 World Cup finals between Spain and the Netherlands (since you’re itching to know, yes, Spain won), researchers observed 50 Spanish soccer fans and found similar results with testosterone levels, as well as changes in cortisol levels. Interestingly the younger and greater fans had higher cortisol levels during the game. In other words, younger and greater fans perceive that a negative outcome of the game will threaten their own social esteem.

Watching your heroes win or lose has physiological consequences. You are not just watching your sports team - your body is reacting and responding to the game. When athletes in a game are tested for testosterone level changes they experience a similar increase during a win and decrease during a loss. Thus, the physiological effects sports fans experience watching the game are a bit like those experienced by athletes in the sport – it’s almost like you are in the game.

Weight Gain and the Game's Score

The outcome of the game is likely effecting your waistline. According to a paper published in Psychology Science in 2013, when a fan’s favourite team loses it leads to consumption of less healthy food. The study found that on Monday, following a Sunday National Football League (NFL) game, fans in cities of losing teams ate more saturated fat and a higher number of calories than fans in cities where teams won.  The effect was seen more greatly in cities with more committed fans. Interestingly, in cities where the NFL team had not played on the Sunday there was no change in dietary consumption. Similar results were seen when the researchers measured food consumption of French soccer fans. 

Listen up sports fans! 

Adorn your jerseys, paint your faces and get your best cheer ready – here comes an amazing few months of sports. But, remember no matter who wins the World Cup you’re body is reacting to the outcome. So, breathe, get up and stretch and eat well so you can enjoy every amazing kick, shoot and goal of the World Cup.


Bernhardt PC. Testosterone changes during vicarious experiences of winning and losing among fans at sporting events. Physiol Behav. 1998 Aug;65(1):59-62.

Cornil Y and P Chandon. From fan to fat? Vicarious losing increases unhealthy eating, but self-affirmation is an effective remedy. Psychol Sci. 2013 Oct;24(10):1936-46. doi: 10.1177/0956797613481232. Epub 2013 Aug 7.

Van der Meij L et al. Testosterone and cortisol release among Spanish soccer fans watching the 2010 World Cup final. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e34814. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034814. Epub 2012 Apr 18.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks. Here is one for the fans. How the Worldcup may be affectign your health and what to do about it.
    Check it out