As an adult, participation in team sports and recreational leagues tends to diminish as the priorities of jobs, families, and housework pile up. However, research shows that it’s just as beneficial, and maybe even more so, to play team sports as an adult. Recreational leagues and team sports help maintain physical fitness, provide a social outlet, and foster self-esteem and mental health.

Get Moving

If you spend most of your day sitting at a desk, there’s nothing like a recreational activity to get you moving. Adults should strive to get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each week, to prevent chronic diseases as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.1 Many age-related issues, such as stiff joints, arthritis, and skeletomuscular problems stem from a lack of movement. The enhanced mobility from participating in a team sport gets your body moving and combats stiffness, aging joints, and inflexibility. Exercise builds bone density, increases muscle mass, and additionally, the regular routine of weekly physical activity helps build endurance, which enhances cardiac strength.

Increase Social Interaction

Team sports are a fun way to combine exercise and social interaction as you work alongside your teammates toward a common goal. Another benefit includes having a set time, place, and schedule for games. It’s easier to stick with your exercise routine when your teammates are counting on you to show up. Team sports are a great reason to get out of the house, socialize, and make new friends. Finally, as part of a team, you have a built-in support system of teammates encouraging you to reach your fitness goals.

Enhance Mental Health

Research shows that individuals who participate in recreational sports report fewer depressive symptoms, improved self-esteem, and higher life satisfaction. One study, which focused on older adults, showed that team training not only improved physical function, but also improved psychological well-being and quality of life.2 Team sports give people a sense of belonging and connection, which results in increased optimism. In addition, exercise is a tremendous stress reliever, and science shows stress can wreak havoc on mental health. The competition and social interactions of team sports boost mood, enhance mental health, and are just plain fun.

Authored by Zach Meeker, Research Assistant for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center


1Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity Guidelines.

2Pedersen MT, Vorup J, Nistrup A, et al. Effect of team sports and resistance training on physical function, quality of life, and motivation in older adults. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2017;27:852 864.

Click here for full podcast playlist.