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Back To Blog > 8 Ways in Which Participation in Physical Activity and Sport Can Have a Positive Impact on Young People’s Mental Health

This post is by Anthony Savage of Sparta Health

This post provides 8 ways in which participation in physical activity and sport can have a positive impact on young people’s mental health

1 - Taking part in physical activity and sport can have a positive impact on young people’s mental health, especially if it includes a social aspect, such as with team sport (Eime et al., 2013). Positive benefits can be seen in relation to anxiety and depression (Ahn & Fedewa, 2011; McMahon et al., 2017; Biddle et al., 2019)

2 - Participation in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and combat sports have been found to reduce aggression and provides a controlled outlet for externalising emotions and behaviours, such as anger and violence (Harwood et al., 2017). MMA can further increase self-control skills, reduce physical aggression and hostile thoughts (Shachar et al., 2016)

3 - Participating in sports, such as football, provides opportunities to meet new people and can help to reduce feelings of isolation and improve a young person’s sense of social support (Mason & Holt, 2012)

4 - Being involved in outdoor programmes and activities can help to build resilience (Ungar et al., 2005). Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress

5 - Taking part in physical activity and sport has been found to support the expression of emotions and act as an escape from grief, providing a sense of freedom (Brewer & Sparkes, 2011a; Brewer & Sparkes, 2011b; Brewer & Sparkes, 2011c)

6 - Participating in physical activity and sport has been shown to help young people to make friends and develops closer family cohesion (Brewer & Sparkes, 2011b; McClatchey & Wimmer, 2012)

7 - Taking part in physical activity and sport can reduce symptoms of depression, stress, loneliness and post-traumatic stress disorder (McClatchey et al., 2009, Zhao et al., 2014).

8 - Participating in physical activity and sport can provide an environment for post-traumatic growth to occur (Brewer & Sparkes, 2011a), whereby individuals feel they are able to set and accomplish personal goals, find a positive outlook, express gratitude, an appreciation for life, and experience a sense of living life to the full

About Anthony Savage 

Anthony Savage is the Medical Services Manager at Sparta Health, having joined the team in 2017 and is responsible for the overall operational delivery of our high quality services to our clients. He has a solid background in workplace physiology, as well over 12 years of delivering, and holding senior management positions, for leading injury and condition management providers.

He is known for his innovative approach in his design and execution of services and his ability to build enduring relationships.


Ahn, S. & Fedewa, A.L. (2011). A meta-analysis of the relationship between children’s physical activity and mental health. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 36(4), 385-397

Briddle, S.J., Ciaccioni, S., Thomas, G., & Vergeer, I. (2019). Physical activity and mental health in children and adolescents. An updated review of reviews and analysis of causality. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 42, 146-155

Brewer, J, & Sparkes, A.C. (2011a). Parentally bereaved children and posttraumatic growth: Insights from an ethnographic study of a UK childhood bereavement service. Mortality, 16(3), 204-222

Brewer, J, & Sparkes, A.C. (2011b). Young people living with parental bereavement: Insights from an ethnographic study of a UK childhood bereavement service. Social Science & Medicine, 72(2), 283-290.

Brewer, J, & Sparkes, A.C. (2011c). The meaning of outdoor physical activity for parentally bereaved young people in the United Kingdom: Insights from an ethnographic study. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 11(2), 127-143. 

Chater, A.M., Williams, J., Shorter, G.W. and Howlett, N. (n.d.). Physical activity for the benefit of mental health outcomes in young people: a focus on parental bereavement. The Sport and Exercise Scientist, pp.16–17.

Eime, R.M. et al. (2013). A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents; informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport. International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10(1), 98.

Harwood, A., Lavidor, M. & Rassovsky, Y. (2017). Reducing aggression with martial arts: A meta-analysis of child and youth studies. Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 34, 96-101

Mason, O.K. & Holt, R. (2012). A role for football in mental health: the Coping Through Football project. The Psychiatrist, 36(8), 290-293

McClatchey, I.S., Vonk, M.E. & Palardy, G. (2009). Efficacyof a camp-based intervention for childhood traumatic grief, research on social work practice, 19(1), 19-30.

McClatchey. I.S. & Wimmer, J.S. (2012). Healing components of a bereavement camp: children and adolescents give voice to their experiences. OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, 65(1), 11-32.

McMahon, E.M. et al. (2017) Physical activity in European adolescents and associations with anxiety, depression and well-being. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 26(1), 111-122. 

Shachar, K. et al. (2016). Reducing child aggression through sports intervention: The role of self-controlled skills and emotions. Children and Youth Services Review, 71, 241-249

Ungar, M., Dumond, C. & McDonald, W. (2005). Risk, resilience and outdoor programmes for at-risk children. Journal of Social Work, 5(3), 319-338

Zhao, J. et al. (2014). Extracurricular interest as a resilience building block for children affected by parental HIV/AIDS. AIDS Care, 26(6), 758-762.


Children Playing Football

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