Marylebone Health (CHHP)

Greg Whyte & Andy Lane on watching penalties

Greg Whyte & Andy Lane on watching penalties

Forget About The Old Cliche: Penalties Are Good For Our Health

Do you remember Spain-England in 1996? England-Portugal in 2006? Or if you were too young to experience them, what about Italy-England in 2012?

What do they all have in common, you might ask? Well, these were all matches whose final results were decided by the much-hated (or loved, it’s up to you) penalty shoot-out. Penalties can either be horrific or give you an incredible adrenaline rush even though until now the main thing that has sprung to mind when we think about them is stress – and stress is usually no good.

I recently took part in an experiment led by Professor Greg Whyte from the Centre for Health and Human Performance (CHHP), commissioned by the online betting company Betfair, that was part of a study aimed at showing that penalty shoot-outs are actually good for our health.

Indeed, what the study found out is that “psychologically, by focusing on something else, people forget about their troubles while an increase in heart rate, body temperature and focus, results in people feeling more energetic.”

I myself was a bit sceptic at the beginning but after having taken part myself I have to admit that I agree with what I quoted above.

The experiment was really interesting: first of all we watched some clips taken by some of the most famous horror movies (i.e. The Shining) and then some England and non-England penalties, while we were constantly monitored by experts who checked our heart rate, concentration, anxiety and general emotions.

As I am clearly not English I was probably not as engaged as the other people who took part (males and females from different age groups) while watching England clashing and losing against Portugal in the 2006 World Cup, but I was absolutely captivated and focused on the Japan-South Korea Asian Cup match.

No, I am not Asian, but we were asked to predict the result of shootouts and we were promised a monetary reward in case we were right. Not surprisingly this time, results showed that “physiological responses are at the highest point when there is the most vested interest in the outcome of the shootout.”

According to the reports, “in terms of the psychological and behavioural data, participants felt happier, more excited and less anxious, less sad and less sluggish when England won and when they were asked to predict the outcome of penalty shoot-outs. Interestingly concentration levels were at the highest when England lost.”

Prof. Whyte also said: “What we found is that when you place a bet it changes your interaction with the penalty shootout because obviously as well as being involved in the penalty shootout if it is your country that’s involved, if there’s a monetary game on top of that then what it does it seems to compound stress, so it seems to add on top of that. The heart rate rises, respiratory rate rises, skin temperature rises, but what is interesting is that the energy expenditure rises.”

He then added laughing: “So actually watching penalty shootouts expends energy and so as part of the sort of the weight management culture that we have watching penalties might not a bad idea to get rid of some of the unwanted calories!”

While there is no doubt that stress over a long period of time can have a negative impact, Betfair found out that the feelings it enhances in the short term prove that penalties are good for us.

The World Cup has now reached the much-awaited knockout stage with Brazil reaching the quarter-finals after a tough penalty shootout against Chile. As there isn’t any team that has already proved their “hegemony” in the summer tournament there are high chances that more matches will end with penalty shootouts.

So next time don’t be afraid of stress and get ready to welcome the positive effects of the most dreadful/exciting/funniest part of a football match!

Read the full article on Sportsvibe

SportsvibeForget about the old cliche: Penalties are good for our health [ Ludovica Tronci | 02 July 2014].