Why we invest in mental health

Everyone has mental health – and evidence shows that the benefits of physical activity on our wellbeing are profound

Mental wellbeing is a key objective in our strategy, Towards an Active Nation.

The benefits of sport and physical activity on our mental health are endless: improved mood, decreased chance of depression and anxiety, and a better and more balanced lifestyle.

£8.2m invested so far in mental health projects

The government’s Sporting Future strategy has mental wellbeing at its heart. And we’re already investing in projects across the country – from small community programmes to regional and national pilots.

So far we've invested £8,160,436 of government and National Lottery funding.

Doing sport isn’t just about playing in a team or joining a club.

Any kind of physical activity can boost mental wellbeing – from swimming to walking and yoga to dance.

You can also read some of the case studies of the kinds of projects we’re investing in on the right-hand side of this page. Hear from the people, volunteers and staff on how they’re making a difference.

mental health infographic

How physical activity helps mental health

There are various ways that physical activity helps mental health, including:

  • Improved mood – Studies show that physical activity has a positive impact on our mood. One study asked people to rate their mood after period of exercise (i.e. walking or gardening) and after inactivity (i.e. reading a book). Researchers found that people felt more awake, calmer and more content after physical activity. For more information and a link to the study, go to the Mental Health Foundation website.
  • Reduced stress – Being regularly active is shown to have a beneficial impact on alleviating stress. It can help manage stressful lifestyles and can help us make better decisions when under pressure. Research on working adults shows that active people tend to have lower stress rates compared to those who are less active.
  • Better self-esteem – Physical activity has a big impact of our self-esteem – that’s how we feel about ourselves and our perceived self-worth. This is a key indicator of mental wellbeing. Those with improved self-esteem can cope better with stress and improves relationships with others.
  • Dementia and cognitive decline – For people who have already developed the disease, sport and activity can help delay further decline in brain function. And it’s also preventative. Studies show that those who are active are less likely to experience cognitive decline.
  • Depression and anxiety – Exercise has been described as a “wonder drug” in preventing and managing mental health. Many GPs now prescribe physical activity for depression, either on its own or in conjunction with other treatments. It is effective at both preventing onset of depression and in terms of managing symptoms.

Contact us

If you’re interested in funding for mental wellbeing projects, please email us at: mentalwellbeing@sportengland.org or call us on: 0345 8508 508.

Find out more