Physical activity interventions for the mental health of children: A systematic review

Gabrielle Hale*, Luke Colquhoun, Deborah Lancastle, Nicky Lewis, Philip Tyson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalSystematic Reviewpeer-review


OBJECTIVE: This systematic review explored the effectiveness of using physical activity (PA) interventions to enhance psychological well-being and reduce psychological ill-being (e.g., anxiety, depression) in children aged six to 11 years old from the general population. METHODS: Electronic databases were searched for studies published between January 2005 and June 2020: Web of Science, ProQuest Psychology Journals, PsycINFO, Pub Med, ASSIA, CINHAL PLUS, SPORTDiscus, EMBASE and Wiley Online Library. Search terms included "physical activity intervention", "psychological well-being", and "child*". After removing duplicates, 11,390 studies were independently screened by two authors based on inclusion/exclusion criteria and assessed for risk of bias. RESULTS: A total of 23 studies were narratively synthesised and categorised into four domains: Quality of Life (QOL), body image, self-esteem, and psychological ill-being. Evidence was provided for the impact of PA interventions in improving QOL, body image and self-esteem. Despite the positive effect on psychological well-being, evidence for a reduction in the frequency and severity of symptoms associated with psychological ill-being in children is less clear. CONCLUSIONS: Reviewed studies support the use of PA interventions in enhancing the psychological well-being of children in school and community settings. More research is warranted to understand the impact of PA interventions on reducing psychological ill-being in children from the general population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-229
Number of pages19
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Issue number2
Early online date2 Sept 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Sept 2022


  • children
  • mental health
  • physical activity intervention
  • well-being
  • young people


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