The average, full-time employee in the United States already works about 47 hours a week, but research shows that there may be reasons to team up with co-workers after hours as well.

In 2010, a study from the University of Pretoria - South Africa found that colleagues who participated in a company-sponsored sports team gained trust and respect for each other as they socialized and worked toward a common goal. By improving their relationships and communication outside of work, the employees/teammates were more likely to experience reduced stress at the office.

Today, about 12 percent of U.S. employers offer the opportunity to participate in such leagues. For Davison Community Enrichment and Recreation (DCER), at least five of the softball teams scheduled to play this summer carry a company name.

“We see a lot of teams where they have family members and friends playing alongside their co-workers,” says Shawn Barrett, Program Supervisor of the DCER. “It’s a great opportunity for everyone to compete in a relaxed and recreational atmosphere. We stress the importance of team camaraderie with our kids when they’re young, but as adults, we sometimes forget that.”

And, of course, there are the health benefits to consider. According to the Center for Disease Control, regular physical activity helps adults control their weight while also reducing their risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers.

That said, don’t rush onto the field just yet, says Karl Bankwitz, Physical Therapist Assistant at Hurley SportsCare North in Flushing.

“Regardless of your age, if you’re going from sitting on the couch most of the time to playing on the field all of a sudden, you’re more likely to hurt yourself,” says Bankwitz, who says common injuries sustained during kickball and/or softball usually involve the ankles and knees.

He recommends regular exercises to prepare your body for sport. To strengthen ankles, a player can do a few repetitions each day of standing on their toes and lowering back onto their heels. For knees, Bankwitz recommends squats – with or without the chair.

And don’t knock the importance of warming up prior to a game or practice.

“If you’re playing baseball, it helps to do some practice swings at a lower intensity before a game or practice,” Bankwitz said. “It will increase blood flow to your muscles and allows you to loosen up a bit, so you’re less likely to experience a tear or sprain.”

Still looking for a rec league to play on? Although softball registration for DCER has closed, the office may be able to accommodate the addition of some teams depending on the desired days and times. Games officially kick off the first week of May. For more information, call 810-591-0175.