In a time when the United States is struggling with a widespread obesity problem, physical activity couldn't be more important for the nation's health. Intramural programs provide a great opportunity for those who don't have the time or abilities to compete in competitive university athletics. Many people also feel more motivated to exercise when they're playing in an organized program rather than following a personal fitness regimen.
Another clear benefit to playing intramural sports is the opportunity for socialization. Whether you're a new freshman looking to meet people and establish friendships, or you're a junior seeking to branch out of your group of friends, intramural sports forces you to get to know your teammates. Intramural organizations are also flexible and often don't have strict schedules. This allows students to make time for studying when final exams come around.
But the rewards run even deeper than that. Some argue that playing intramural sports can help reduce stress, which in turn could help a student achieve academically. NIRSA is conducting studies to determine whether there's a connection between physical activity and graduation rates. But some research has already shown that physically active children do better in reading and math [source: Byl].
College-age students are still building their identity, explains Drabkin, which is another reason why the benefits of intramural sports can go well beyond health and physical fitness. He says that students at that stage feel like they need to be part of a group, which is something intramural teams satisfy. Drabkin also points out that some researchers say organizational activity prompts the release of the hormone oxytocin (perhaps from supportive physical touch), which helps team-bonding [source: Jacobs].
Additionally, some argue that involvement in recreational sports helps students build character, allowing them to develop self-control and positive self-image [source: Human Kinetics]. But others believe that these positive character-building benefits only apply in certain circumstances. Specifically, they don't occur when students play the sport with an ultra-competitive, win-at-all-costs attitude. In fact, such mentality could promote aggression and violence [source: Byl]. So, by that logic, intramural sports might be preferable to the more competitive varsity sports.
Institutions should also take note of the benefits of promoting their intramural programs. NIRSA finds from their own studies that such programs help in student recruitment and retention.
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