Play ball! Researchers have found that watching baseball can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, while watching football can raise both.
I’d have to say that I get more excited about Opening Day in baseball than almost any other day of the year. The return of familiar faces, the new faces to get to know, the new uniforms (nice return to a classy retro logo, Jays), and the anticipation of a shiny new season spread out before us where the top of the standings is within sight.
But it isn’t easy being a fan, as any fan knows. Being a fan is a manic-depressive experience. Our favourite team can take us from incredible highs to depressing lows faster than you can say “take me out to the ballgame.”
It’s tough to keep an even keel sometimes. If you’ve said to yourself during a particularly frustrating game (that is, when your team’s losing by a ridiculous score, the relief (ha!) pitcher couldn’t find the strike zone if he used a telescope, and the batters are striking out like you did in Little League), I’d better calm down, I’m going to blow a gasket or have a heart attack, beware. Research proves that watching sports can affect your heart rate and blood pressure.
Drop in heart rate for baseball fans
Researchers compared 11 New York Giants and New York Jets football fans to 31 New York Yankees baseball fans. The fans watched games on TV while wearing a blood pressure monitor. Interestingly, football fans experienced an increase in heart rate and mean arterial BP (that’s blood pressure, not batting practice, while baseball fans experienced a “highly significant drop” in heart rate and mean arterial blood pressure, compared to baseline values.
Another study compared football fans’ cardiovascular health after watching the Los Angeles Rams lose the 1980 Super Bowl and the 1984 Los Angeles Raiders win the Super Bowl. Researchers concluded that “emotional stress of loss and/or the intensity of a game played by a sports team in a highly publicized rivalry such as the Super Bowl could trigger total cardiovascular deaths.”
So if you’re a sports fan, when you feel your blood pressure soaring (or dropping), take a deep breath. It’s a long season, so pace yourself! And perhaps try a little deep breathing or meditation to get you through the game.
Men’s health across the life course
Theodore D. Cosco, PhD (Cantab) CPsychol