Fans for the Win

No matter which jersey you sport, fans have reason to celebrate. In the new book Fans Have More Friends, authors Ben Valenta and David Sikorjak (admittedly biased as sports fans themselves) share survey stats from thousands of Americans. Using the UCLA Loneliness Scale, which measures subjective feelings of social isolation, 61 percent of participants experienced loneliness, but nonfans were noticeably lonelier than fans. By galvanizing relationships and offering a sense of belonging, sports score big in the social interaction arena. Fans were also more likely to report feelings of happiness and gratitude, higher satisfaction with careers and relationships, stronger family ties and greater trust in cultural institutions. In a similar study from the U.K., 49 percent of fans said that supporting their favorite sport boosted mental health and inspired a more active lifestyle. Here, we’ve recruited other ways to keep your fanaticism in shape:

• Get off the sidelines: Watching a matchup from the couch is a rookie move since it only burns about a calorie per minute. Turn team viewing into a game and get a workout with the athletes. How about pushups at the top of the inning, squats for every out or jumping jacks each time the camera catches a face-painted fan? However you decide to play, benchwarmers are not allowed!

• Reconsider the snacks: Studies report that the average American consumes a staggering 6,000 to 11,000 calories by the Super Bowl’s fourth quarter. Rather than punting on greasy football fare, opt for healthier appetizers, such as our Dry-Brined Chicken Wings with Buttermilk Herb Ranch, Turkey Lentil Meatballs or Sesame-Crusted Veggie Pot Stickers (

• Gamble responsibly: Whether you research each of the Sweet 16 teams or flip a coin to fill out your March Madness brackets, take care not to wade too deep into the betting pool. Gambling on games should be fun; if you regularly lie about your betting habits, wager more than you can afford to lose, feel depressed or irritable when not gambling or are unable to stop, seek help. Contact the confidential National Problem Gambling Helpline Network [(800) 522-4700,] or reach out to the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services [(877) 452-5155].

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