If you exercise alone, laughing your way to your fitness goals is easier said than done – running by yourself on a treadmill can all too quickly become monotonous and even attending an exercise class alone can be a daunting and sometimes isolating experience.

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While it’s human nature to derive happiness from companionship, we often neglect this natural desire when it comes to achieving our fitness goals, which can make exercise a lot more difficult than it could be.
“This is a real problem. For a lot of people, especially for those who go to the gym and slog it out on the treadmill, they’ll be getting fit and there will be physical benefits to this sort of exercise, but it’s unlikely they’ll be getting psychological benefits,” says sport psychologist Dr Jeremy Adams.
Playing sport in a team or exercising in a group has many psychological benefits, according to Dr Adams, not to mention the many physical benefits, too.
Here are five reasons why you should consider playing team sports. Getting fit and optimising your happiness is easier than you might think!

Fun with friends
Sweating it out in front of team members while wearing potentially daggy track pants or a tight lycra sports uniform isn’t the most ideal circumstance in which to make friends. However, team sports offer a chance to shed appearances and in turn, build friendships based on trust and comfort.
“Team sports can break down barriers and you don’t have to keep up a pretence that you might in other situations,” Dr Adams says.
This also applies to existing relationships – Dr Adams says being able to exercise with a friend who you trust and enjoy spending time with gives you more of an opportunity to be yourself, which can be extremely liberating, stress-reducing and calming for the mind.
An obvious effect of playing in a team with friends is that your friendships can become stronger.
“You’re sharing something with others that’s bigger than yourself, which means that you can develop strong and more meaningful relationships,” Dr Adams says.
Australian Netball Diamonds’ Madison Browne says individuals can learn important values while playing in a team of friends.
“You can learn to share, communicate, compromise and make sacrifices for one another so you’re doing the best for the team.”
And to Browne, working in a team with friends is very rewarding “because you get to share wonderful memories and experiences with them”.

Stay committed
The social side of playing a team sport encourages participants to engage with their workout routine more effectively, and let’s face it – there’s little excuse to skip a workout session if it’s fun-filled time spent with friends.
More importantly, you’re playing in a team with others who rely on you and consequently, you’re accountable to not only yourself, but also your teammates.
“It’s more likely you’re going to turn up, more likely that you’re going to try, more likely that you’re going to engage and more likely that you’re going to enjoy yourself,” Dr Adams says.
Team sports generate more enthusiasm to achieve fitness goals and with a companion or teammate by your side to keep track of your progress, you’re more inclined to motivate yourself to improve your performance or exercise at a higher intensity.
“To get out there to train by yourself can be hard,” Browne says. “The best thing about having teammates around you when you’re training is that they can challenge you in your training, make you improve or support you, and they’re there to help pick you up.”

Boost your fitness
Many team sports can encourage your body to engage in an all-round, full-body workout as you are made to perform a variety of moves during a game.
As an example, in a single game of netball, you may be required to run around the court, jump to catch the ball or to shoot goals, pass the ball or perform other leg movements such as lunges.
Compare this to more solo exercises, such as jogging, which focus on repetitive movements that target a smaller group of muscles.
By playing a team sport, you’ll also be able to refine your motor skills and improve your hand-eye coordination. Your improved ability to play a sport will also benefit other areas of your exercise regime as your movements can become more polished and coordinated.
But the best part is, you’re getting fit with friends and you’re more likely to stick to your fitness plan if it’s fun.

Get value for money
Gym memberships can be expensive and at-home gym equipment is even pricier. If you’re looking to get fit on a budget, then playing a team sport can be an easy solution.
If you form a team with your friends, most often you only need to pay to register the team, which usually costs about $100. Sometimes you may also have to pay a small fee for each game.
Once you’ve formed a team, you can play up to 20 games in a season, with one to two nights of training per week. This means you’ll be able to get up to 60 workouts at a very low cost.
There is also a wide variety of team sports on offer, so if you choose to sign up for different types of team sports during the year, you’ll be able to engage in a number of sports that focus on a range of skills and movements. Consequently, you’ll be able to target different muscle groups and get a more varied workout pattern.
If you’re enthusiastic and happen to be particularly good at playing the sport, you might be eligible to play the sport at an amateur level at which you could be paid to play. Who’s to say it can’t happen?

Be happy
It has been found that team sportspeople have a reduced likelihood to develop anxiety or depression as players can feel a stronger sense of group belonging than non-team sports players.
“Research shows we enjoy our experiences more when we have the opportunity to share them with others – and that’s any experience, whether it be exercising or even just eating dinner,” Dr Adams says.
As a result, playing a team sport allows you to place more meaning on not only your overall fitness plan, but also the process of training and the outcome of playing a game. 
“There is a greater sense of pride and achievement when playing a team sport as you’re all working together for a shared goal and this boosts self-esteem so you feel better about yourself,” Dr Adams says.
“You’ll be feeling a greater sense of satisfaction and wellbeing and that extends into happiness.”