BILL SHANKLY once famously said: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death… I can assure them it is much more serious than that.”
The legendary Liverpool manager may have been verging on hyperbole with his claims, but he may not have been entirely wide of the mark.
Football isn’t a matter of life and death – it’s actually a matter of life or death.
According to a new study, watching team you support win can actually have a positive impact on your health while scientists also found emotionally invested spectators experience the same physical stresses associated with a brisk 90-minute walk.
The research also revealed that a fan experiencing the jubilation of seeing their team win enjoyed a general boost in overall mood that can last for up to 24 hours after the game.
Dr. Andrea Utley, the sports scientist who led the study in conjunction with BetVictor, told CNN: "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.”
25 Leeds United fans, aged from 20 up to 62, were monitored during three key Championship games last season.
The fans were analysed once in a controlled environment and twice live in the stadium during key points in Leeds push for promotion to the Premier League.
Analysing heart rates before, during and after the game, researchers noted an average 17% increase in heart rates,
According to the research, heart rates peaked around goal scoring opportunities. They rose around 27% when watching their owned team score and 22% when the opposition found the back of the net. The more important the game, the bigger the reactions.
"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," Dr. 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."
The research also highlighted the potential long-term benefits of watching football, noting that while blood pressure increased during games, fans generally had lower blood pressure long before the game ended.
"There is this belief that you are in agony watching the game," Utley said.
"The reality is that it's not actually true. I think we quite enjoy this, we enjoy being passionate."
It helped if the fan had watched their team win though with the research noting that blood pressure continued to rise among those fans who watched their teams lose.
As part of the study, fans also completely a survey centred on their emotional reaction to results on the pitch.
It found that fans experienced an “absolute high” when their teams won but, conversely, were left disappointed for days after a defeat with one respondent suggesting a loss sometimes felt like “a friend has died.”
They should try supporting the Republic of Ireland, never mind Leeds!