Press release: Sport and Recreation Alliance calls for greater recognition of benefits of physical activity on mental health

New research from the Sport and Recreation Alliance looking at the role of sport and physical activity on mental health has found that a third of people who are currently inactive, would consider getting active if they knew more about the mental wellbeing benefits of exercise.

The Sport and Recreation Alliance is urging the sport and recreation sector and Government to treat the mental health benefits of being active on a par with the physical benefits. The call comes as the Alliance launches new research which reveals that almost a third (32%) of those who are currently inactive[1] would take up physical activity if they knew more about the mental health benefits. Getting even a fraction of these people active would have a massive impact – to their own health and wellbeing and in generating cost savings for the health service.

The research also explores why people take part in regular physical activity, with over half (55%) saying it is to improve their mental wellbeing, and over half (51%) also said that they feel happier when they exercise.

In addition, over two thirds (69%) of all respondents believe that the sport and recreation sector has a role to play in tackling the stigma associated with mental health.

Emma Boggis, Chief Executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance said


“In January our Prime Minister said mental health had been ‘dangerously disregarded’ as secondary to physical health. Today we are calling on the sport and recreation sector, Government and society more broadly to dedicate the same attention and resources to programmes focused on mental health as those focused on physical health.

“Collectively, we need to become more effective at communicating with all sections of society, including the most under-represented groups, about the mental health benefits of physical activity. The Government’s strategy released in late 2015 highlights the impact that sport has on physical and mental health benefits so we are on our way to reaching a point where mental and physical health are perceived in the same light. But where we want to be is for mental health to command the same level of attention and financial investment in the sport and recreation sector.”

The research will also support the Alliance’s new five-year strategy which will be published on Thursday 30 March. The strategy will include a closer focus on mental health, particularly around tackling the stigmas attached to mental health and demonstrating the contribution the sector can make to both physical and mental wellbeing.

Later this week the Sport and Recreation Alliance, together with Mind and the Professional Players Federation host an event to mark the two-year anniversary of the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation which will focus on some of the great work already going on across the sport and recreation sector to tackle issues around mental health.



Notes to editors

For further information please contact Thea Rogerson, Press Officer at the Sport and Recreation Alliance on 0207 976 3933 /

Sport and Recreation Alliance

The Sport and Recreation Alliance believes that the power of sport and recreation can change lives and bring communities together. Together with our members and in partnership with the wider sector, we make the most of opportunities and tackle the areas that provide a challenge. We provide advice, support and guidance to our members and the sector, who represent traditional governing bodies of games and sport, county sports partnerships, outdoor recreation, water pursuits, and movement and dance exercise. As the voice of the sector, we work with Government, policy makers and the media to make sure the grassroots sport and recreation grows and thrives. Having an active nation is important as it delivers huge benefits to society and the millions of participants, volunteers, staff and spectators.

About the Research

The research referenced in this press release is based on a survey carried out online by Toluna who interviewed a total of 2,006 adults between 14 and 16 March 2017.

Supplementary data:

How does exercise make you feel better (tick all that apply)?

  • I feel more satisfied with life   37%
  • I feel happier                           51%
  • I feel less anxious                   23%
  • I feel less stressed                  40%
  • I sleep better                           42%
  • I'm in a better mood                34%
  • I feel more relaxed                  36%
  • I feel more energized              39%
  • It doesn't                                  14%

About the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation

The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation sets out how sport can use its collective power to tackle mental ill health and the stigma that surrounds it.

Alongside the player associations and NGBs who have already signed-up, the Sport and Recreation Alliance is asking for other organisations that use physical activity to promote mental wellbeing to commit to take positive steps to address and encourage people to be open about mental health issues.

More information is available here.


[1] Those who participate in less than 30 minutes of activity at least once a week as defined in the Sport England Active Lives study