Team sports have sports psychology benefits

Never walk alone

If you want to gain the most value out of exercising, do it as part of a group. Team sports can have sports psychology benefits.  That’s the implication of a fascinating study carried out by researchers from Australia and New Zealand.

The team set out to investigate whether the distance covered in the six-minute walk test – a submaximal aerobic test used to evaluate functional exercise power in sedentary populations – was different when walking with a group than when performing the test alone.

Eight healthy male and eight healthy female university students performed in random order two six-minute walk tests, either alone or in a group of four, on two separate occasions one week apart.

The distance covered increased significantly from a mean of 653m in the individual male tests to 735m in the group male tests and from 616m in the individual female tests to 701m in the group female tests. In other words, the men increased the distance walked in six minutes by 12.5% and the women by 13.7% when performing the test as part of a group.

‘Triplet’s theory of dynamogenics,’ the researchers point out, ‘states that the existence of another person racing provokes a competitive instinct, which in turn increases ones arousal and inspires increases in effort and subsequent power output and/or speed.’

While this ‘social facilitation effect’ might be useful for sportsmen and women looking to enhance the value of their training, the researchers explain that the test is often used by clinicians to gauge improvement in cardiovascular health.

‘Therefore it is important for [them] to be aware of the confounding effect of the social facilitation. Furthermore, it would be important for exercise physiologists to take this finding into account when prescribing exercise for groups so as to not place at-risk people in a higher standard group.’

Br J Sports Med 2006; 40:876-877

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