How does playing–or simply watching–sports impact your hormones?

My Hormonology

How does playing–or simply watching–sports impact your hormones?

soccerYou probably didn’t know about this because the news has been so very quiet about it, but there’s a wee soccer (football) tournament going on right now. Maybe you’ve heard of it: The World Cup?

In the interest of full disclosure, I know next to nothing about soccer–besides at some point someone yells, “GOOOOOAAALLLL!!!” for a much longer time than you would think is humanly possible and vuvuzelas are the work of some dark, evil force that hates hearing, but really likes bees.

However, there is something I do know about the World Cup–and other games–that you may not: Watching sports impacts your hormones!

According to researchers who studied Spanish soccer fans cheering on their home team in the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and The Netherlands, watching your favorite team compete triggers a surge in testosterone in both men and women. And this holds true for any sport–be it baseball, basketball or badminton.

Why the hormonal spike? Researchers believe it’s because we identify with our favorite teams so much that we feel like we’re personally preparing to help them win.

Do you play on a sports team or compete solo? More interesting hormonal news: Studies (like this one, this one and this one) show that, both men and women experience a surge in testosterone that begins at least 24 hours before a match and continues throughout the game.

As the researchers explain it, this higher output of testosterone is your body’s way of getting you better prepared to beat your opponent by promoting team bonding and ratcheting up aggressiveness and focus.

How can you use this information in everyday life? A higher output of testosterone gives you more confidence and a higher sex drive. So, when you need a boost in either one of these–say, before giving a big presentation or going on a hot date–turn on a game that one of your favorite teams is playing in or challenge someone to an athletic competition (like a sprint, bowling or even badminton) to get your testosterone pumping.

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