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Mental health benefits of physical activity and sport must not be under estimated

Blog post   •   Oct 10, 2019 16:10 BST

Communications Officer Andrew Lawton looks at why it's important for the sector to advocate the extensive benefits that activity has on mental health as well physical health.

London Sport’s mission is to make the capital the most active city in the world – it is something we are passionate about because we know physical activity benefits Londoners’ lives.

The physical health benefits of completing five bouts of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise are extensive: weight loss, reduced risk of heart attack, lower blood pressure; the list goes on.

But, on World Mental Health Day, it’s vitally important that we, and our partners in the industry, advocate the extensive benefits that activity can have on mental health as well.

For example, analysis published by London Sport in 2018, found over 65,000 fewer people experience clinical depression across London as result of participation in physical activity.

In total, due to physical activity, there were over 3.5m fewer instances of accessing mental health services the report, conducted by Sheffield Hallam University for London Sport, found.

Tomorrow (11 October), the Active Citizens Worldwide 2019 report is released in Singapore with London data showing physically active adults with significantly higher levels of mental wellbeing.

Active Londoners reported higher levels of happiness (4.8%) as well as lower levels of anxiety than those who are less active (-1.6%) – clearly demonstrating the mental health benefits of exercise.

Such figures only reiterate the importance for London Sport, and our partners across the sector, to continue to advocate the benefits of physical exercise on mental health.

And it’s not just in academic research where this correlation is seen again and again, we hear it first-hand from those involved in projects we support like Satellite Clubs.

Louise McGing, club secretary for AFC Leyton Girls, told us:

"The girls are more confident. We find that the girls who play football are growing into strong, confident citizens. It gives them discipline and it keeps them fit and healthy.

“It’s the whole team environment; for friendships, dealing with conflict, their health and wellbeing - the benefits are just enormous.”

But like all our work, London Sport cannot work in isolation, so we’re also proud to recognise the incredible efforts of many of those in the industry supporting people’s mental health through sport.

The Single Homeless Project’s Sport and Health programme and Core Sport’s Core Art Hackney project have both lifted London Sport Awards in recent years for their efforts in this area.

Tell us about your physical activity project and the impact it’s having on participants’ mental health - nominations for the London Sport Awards 2020 open before the end of the year.  

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