“As soon as I used to get up from my desk, I would put on my earphones,” Siddhi Shah, a banking professional, recalls. She would watch videos on her commute home and then, after dinner, watch a Netflix series or a movie. “Usually, I would fall asleep listening to a podcast,” she adds. 

Shah’s lifestyle involved little movement, fresh air, or even socialisation, and it proved to be dangerous for both her physical and mental health. “I was always lethargic. I put on a lot of weight, and every day seemed like a drag. I had to force myself to go to work,” she admits. 

Shah’s case is not unique. Multiple urban professionals who rarely exercise or spend time outdoors complain of ennui and listlessness: feelings that often emerge because of an inactive and sedentary life. It can be compared to an acute sense of boredom, where almost nothing gives joy. 

Experts think that the cause isn’t that your mind is overstimulated but that your body isn’t. 

Movement is key

Indian policy makers and urban planners, however, don’t think of sports as an integral part of life—it reflects in the little space each person has in Indian cities. But the few of us who can access public grounds, gymkhanas, and clubs, too, are often locked indoors.

“The Danes are the happiest people in the world because almost all of them play a sport in their free time,” Sushil Yadav, a tennis coach in Mumbai, says. “Only 30 minutes of exercise a day can make your heart healthier and playing a sport can be the most fun form of exercise.” 

Yadav’s coaching class, for instance, admits many children and teenagers but some working professionals join as well. While the numbers are insignificant, most play an hour of tennis every other evening after work and during weekends. “In choosing to come here and not binge watch or go to a pub, my students are repairing themselves for work the next day,” Yadav affirms.  

Sports repairs

A lot of evidence says that Yadav is right. For instance, a study tried to understand the impact of sport on happiness. They studied 90 university adults and found that team sport leads to increased life satisfaction, self-esteem, and  positive mood. The study concluded that if team sports make you feel happier and more relaxed, it is possible that participating in sports produces long-lasting happiness. 

Historically, a number of benefits of sports have been pointed out:

  1. Improves metabolism: Sports increase metabolic rates which helps burn extra calories and shed extra weight.
  2. Bone health: The health of bones, muscles and joints is compromised as we grow older. Sports help build this strength. 
  3. Good for your brain: Sports keep your brain functioning well and keep your memory intact. 

But the most important advantage, of course, is that they make you feel good, with no side effects. But if you’ve never tried, Yadav advises, “start slow and build the intensity gradually.” Like Siddhi. 

She now returns home and plays badminton with her siblings and friends. “It’s a much better stress buster than watching a video,” she says. “It also has another advantage: I sleep better at nights.” 

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  • Apekshita Varshney is a journalist who has worked with media organisations, non-profits, and the Government of Maharashtra. She is now a freelance writer which gives her time to read, travel, and write fiction. She writes about technology, communities, gender, politics, and well-being.