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What Happens to Your Body and Brain When You Watch Football – NBCNews.com

Another thing that can happen to our brains when our teams win is that they are essentially thrown into something called an excitatory state, according to Shuster. “If your team wins on Monday Night Football on the final play, it is close to midnight and you are exhilarated,” he says. “If it was Tuesday and you had to be awake for any other reason, most people would be exhausted.”

This excitatory state comes from the hormone adrenaline, and that exhilaration often shows up in your body’s behavior, according to Dr. Jason D. Hanks, director of anesthesia at NYC Surgical Associates.

“When we get stressed or nervous our brain again sends signals causing the release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands,” says Hanks. “The heart begins to beat faster, blood pressure goes up and blood gets diverted to the most important parts of your body, heart and muscles, as part of the fight-or-flight response. Other less important organs, like the digestive system, close off their blood supply leading to that ‘butterfly’ sensation you experience when you get nervous or anxious.”

According to a recent study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, spectators of a professional hockey game saw significantly elevated heart rates, equivalent to the rates associated with vigorous exercise. It’s certainly not a stretch to assume the same can happen during a football game, and Shuster confirms that yes, watching football can increase your heart rate to levels similar to those reached when working out.

This, in combination with increased stress, may not be a big deal to someone who is young and healthy, but Shuster warns that a fan who is older or significantly overweight may actually be at an increased risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack during a big game.

If you’re worried about potential health issues or simply don’t like the way being a football spectator sometimes makes you feel, take some time to put your fandom into perspective. You might find that like many of the things we worry about, it’s not that big of a deal in the greater scheme of things, and isn’t really worth getting worked up about.

“Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in the moment on game day,” says Hanks. “Emotions can get escalated pretty quickly with a win or loss. In the end, we need to remember that sports are meant to be for entertainment purposes, as an outlet to take our minds off the stressors and struggles we have in the real world, not add to them.”

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