New Study Finds Sports Participation in Schools Enhances Wellbeing and Mental Strength

Research conducted by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) on behalf of the Youth Sport Trust (YST) and HMC (The Head’s Conference) has revealed that sports participation in school is associated with higher levels of wellbeing among young people.

The survey of 5,481 secondary school students aged 13-15 from 80 schools found that the wellbeing benefits of sports participation could be gained regardless of the sector they are educated in. The composite score of the survey was created by measuring the number of sports a child had participated in, their involvement in sports at school and the perceived importance of sport at school.

The research found that greater sports participation in school is linked to higher levels of wellbeing, self-belief and mental toughness. It also revealed that girls had higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness than boys when it came to the effects of mental toughness and self-efficacy.

Ali Oliver MBE, CEO at Youth Sport Trust said: “This powerful new research clearly shows not just the importance of young people taking part in sport and physical activity at school, but crucially continuing to take part throughout exam season. We know that healthy and happy children learn better, and with mock exam season approaching for many young people, this research highlights the need for young people to remain engaged in sport throughout the school year. In particular, more needs to be done to ensure that girls remain active throughout their school careers.”

Simon Hyde, General Secretary of HMC, added: “The research HMC and the Youth Sport Trust have published today is incredibly valuable to schools, parents and policymakers and shows the true value of sport and physical activity to our children. Physical activity is not only great for the wellbeing of young people today, but helps boost their self-belief and mental health.”

The findings of the survey emphasise the importance of promoting school sport throughout a child’s time at school, especially during exams. Kevin Knibbs, Chair of the HMC Sports Committee and Headmaster of Hampton School, concluded: “These important research findings highlight the hugely beneficial role that sport is able to play in the lives of young people and its positive effects upon their wellbeing, self-esteem and resilience. Ensuring that pupils have plenty of active involvement in sport at school throughout the year – including and especially in the run-up to exams – helps them to maintain a healthy balance and navigate teenage life’s pressures and demands.”

The report, entitled ‘The benefits of sport participation and physical activity in schools’, was published by the Youth Sport Trust and HMC. It highlights the need for young people to remain engaged in sport throughout the school year and provides ideas, tips and information on how to do so.

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