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Skateboarding alleviates depression and increases well-being

A new study led by the University of Exeter has found that skateboarding in middle age can help people cope with depression, bond with their children, and achieve emotional well-being. According to study author Dr. Paul O’Connor, a sociologist at the University of Exeter, aside from its physical benefits, skateboarding can alleviate mental health issues and give “profound meaning and resonance.”

The popularity of skateboarding has risen after the first COVID-19 lockdown. It made its Olympic debut as an official sport at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. A reason behind its sudden popularity could be the fact that the measure of success in skateboarding is more fluid compared to other sports, with occasional failure seen as an intrinsic part of this activity.

In order to investigate the benefits of this sport, Dr. O’Connor interviewed 30 middle-aged skateboarders from the United States and Canada, and observed skateboarders in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. 

“For those I spoke to skateboarding was more than about looking after physical health,” Dr. O’Connor reported. “On at least two occasions when I asked informants to try to explain what skateboarding meant to them, I was confronted with grown men fighting back tears, literally lost for words in grasping to communicate the importance and gravitas of their pastime.”

The study findings suggest that skateboarding significantly alleviated symptoms of depression and other mental health issues, provided an opportunity to re-connect with offspring, and helped people cope with addictions and substance abuse.

“Middle-aged skateboarders appear to acknowledge the health benefits of being active and obtaining exercise through skateboarding; however, their main focus appears to be pleasure,” explained Dr. O’Connor.

“Older skateboarders may well be interested in losing weight and keeping fit, but these are often reported to be by-products of the more general well-being achieved through the activity. Skateboarding provides a serious emotional outlet for people who have experienced personal trials in the collapse of long-term relationships, career challenges, parenthood, and substance abuse.”

Moreover, while sports such as football or rugby have a strong competitive nature, with clear-defined instances of success or failure, “lifestyle sports” such as skateboarding tend to be more about the intrinsic enjoyment of the activity and less about competing with others.

“In skateboarding there is a much more fluid understanding of success, and one that is open to failure as a contingent part of the activity, of both learning and progressing,” Dr. O’Connor concluded.

The study is published as a chapter of the book Lifestyle Sports and Identities

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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