Your nerves are jangling, palms are sweating and nothing in the world can distract you from watching the action as the referee starts lifting the whistle to his lips.
All of a sudden, the whistle sounds, and the game is over. You leap into the air celebrating the win like some feral animal, confused by those who don’t get this invested into 22 people kicking a ball around a field.
Watching soccer is special, there’s simply nothing quite like it. But now, thanks to new research led by the University of Leeds, it gets even better.
The recent study, due to be released soon, suggests watching your beloved soccer team romp home to victory has a positive impact on your health, with spectators experiencing physical stresses equivalent to going for a brisk 90-minute walk.
Results also found that a win lifts a spectators mood for a whole 24 hours after the game has finished.
“Ultimately supporting your team at a football match gives you a moderate cardiovascular workout and depending on the result of the match, a psychological boost or slump,” said Dr. Andrea Utley, the sports scientist who led the study in conjunction with BetVictor.
The experiment monitored 25 Leeds United fans, aged between 20 and 62, throughout three key games during the Championship last season.
One game was watched in a controlled environment while the other two were watched live in the stadium during the team’s chaotic playoff finals, with promotion to the English Premier League at stake.
Researchers analyzed the participants’ heart rates before the game, at halftime and after the match had finished — noticing that on average heart rates increased by 17 percent.
“There is good stress and there is bad stress and there’s a level of arousal which is actually good for you and the level of arousal that takes you over the edge,” Utley told CNN Sport.
“Although people think watching football takes you over the edge, it doesn’t. We found it just kept people at a good level of arousal.”
Heart rates particularly peaked around goal scoring opportunities, with rates increasing 27 percent after a Leeds United goal and 22 percent after an opposition goal.
Ultimately, the more the game matters, the bigger the reactions are.
Long term benefits
If this wasn’t good news enough, the research also indicates that watching soccer can have long term benefits.
Even though blood pressure increased during the game, findings revealed that, as a whole, fans had a lower blood pressure long after the match had finished.
“There is this belief that you are in agony watching the game,” added Utley.
“The reality is that it’s not actually true. I think we quite enjoy this, we enjoy being passionate.”
However, this was not the case after watching a loss, with blood pressure continuing to rise long after the final whistle.
The study also noticed how people’s mood is hugely affected by the outcome of the match.
Participants filled out a short mood survey before and after each game which revealed just how hard a loss can hit supporters.
When their team wins, fans experience “an absolute high” with the euphoria lasting a day. However, when their team loses, the slump can “actually be quite severe.”
One of the participants said losing a match felt like a “low hum”.
“That disappointment of Friday meant that the first thing I thought of when I woke up on Saturday morning was, ‘I don’t believe we lost that game,'” they said in a focus group after the game.
“That sort of sets the mood for the rest of that morning until you can pull yourself out of it.”
Another participant said the loss felt like “a friend has died.”