Physical activity can boost young people’s mental health and wellbeing

Posted: Sat, 24 Jun 2017 19:23

Physical activity can boost young people’s mental health and wellbeing

A new international study into the impact of sport, exercise and dance on 15-24 year olds has shown evidence that physical activity can help improve teens' and young adults' mental wellbeing.

The findings, from the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, are part of a new report that highlights the evidence for the wellbeing impact of different physical activities.

Studies of yoga, and the tai-chi like movements of baduanjin-qigong, provided strong evidence of their effectiveness at reducing feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger, while improving attention spans and how the young people reported their overall wellbeing.

The study also revealed:

  • Empowering young girls through peer-supported exercise has a positive effect on their self-belief.
  • Aerobic and hip-hop dance can lead to greater increases in happiness compared to other activities like ice-skating or body conditioning.
  • Taking part in 'exer-gaming' programmes, like Wii Fit, in groups can help encourage overweight young people to participate in physical activity and make friends.

The review was carried out by researchers at Brunel University London, The London School of Economics and the Universities of Winchester and Brighton.

The review looked at sports, dance and exercise programmes that were evaluated or had research published on their wellbeing impacts.

Nancy Hey, Director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, says: "From the evidence, we can see that sport, dance and other physical activity is potentially better for our overall wellbeing because not only does it make us happy and give us a sense of purpose; it also improves our health, which is very important in our overall life satisfaction."

"This is the first evidence review of its kind for sport and young people and we would like to see more support for research and evaluation of the wellbeing benefits of physical activity happening in the UK, so we can build on this review and provide more evidence for policy makers and practitioners working with young people."

Dr Louise Mansfield, the report's lead author from Brunel University London, points out:

"the importance of understanding and addressing mental health issues in young people is gaining momentum. We are delighted to make a significant contribution to national conversations by showing that there is evidence that being physically active through sport, exercise and dance improves young peoples' happiness, confidence and sense of purpose.

"This evidence can be widely used in the design and implementation of programmes of physical activity for young people to promote wellbeing benefits and also to tackle wellbeing inequalities."

Full briefing can be found here:

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is an independent, non-profit, collaborative centre that works to share the best available evidence on wellbeing to improve people's lives.

Tags: Sport, Physical Activity, Dance, Mental Health, Wellbeing, Children