The Social Benefits of Participation in Sport
The benefits of sport are hardly confined to passive
spectating. Active participation in sports is a daily
habit of hundreds of millions around the world.
According to a 2009 Eurobarometer survey, 40 per
cent of E.U. citizens (approximately 200 million
people) indicate that they play some sport at least
once a week, while a 2009 SGMA survey found
that 170 million Americans (about 55 per cent of
the population) are active in fitness, team sports,
recreational, or outdoor endeavour; another 45 mil-
lion are casually active.
Engaging in sport contributes to building society’s
human capital. The values learned through participa-
tion in sport – teamwork, solidarity, tolerance, and fair
play – transcend differences and inequalities, helping
to redefine success and performance in terms of
interaction and inclusion. Playing sport can also as-
sist young people from disadvantaged backgrounds
to gain confidence and extend their social networks,
offering an antidote to feelings of isolation, frustra-
tion, or alienation. Sport also develops skills essential
to success in later life, teaching self-discipline, and
contributing to personal fulfilment from the satisfac-
tion of achieving results through sustained effort and
At a more basic level, physical activity plays a vital
role in promoting society’s overall health and well-
being. This role is particularly important in wealthier
countries, where decreased levels of physical activ-
ity increase the prevalence of obesity and related
chronic medical conditions such as cardiovascular
diseases and diabetes. Additionally, in an era in
which mental health problems are on the rise, sports
have been shown to alleviate many symptoms. The
very popularity of sport suggests that it can have
greater influence – perhaps greater than any other
part of civil society – as a tool for promoting health
and development.
i Eurobarometer,
Sport and Physical Activity
, Special
Eurobarometer 334 / Wave 72.3–TNS Opinion & So-
cial, March 2010,
archives/ebs/ebs_334_en.pdf (accessed 18 February
2011); SGMA, “Team Sports & Fitness Dominate, But
The Sports Landscape Is Changing”, Press Release,
30 July, 2009,
pdf (accessed 18 February 2011).
GUARDING THE GAME Preserving the Integrity of Sport
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