Policy and research

Health benefits

The WHO defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” . Scientific evidence has shown the major beneficial effects of physical activity on all three aspects of health . Numerous physical, mental, and social health benefits of physical activity are presented in Figure 2. The physical fitness and health status of children and adolescents may be substantially improved by regular partic-ipation in physical activity. Compared to their inactive peers, physically active children and adolescents have higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular endurance, and strength. The well-documented health benefits include a reduced risk of obesity, more favourable cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk profiles, enhanced bone health, and improved mental health4,

Figure 2. Key health benefits of physical activity (adapted from Pedisic 2011)

Additional reading:

  • Allender, S., Cowburn, G. & Foster, C. 2006. Understanding participation in sport and physical activity among chil-dren and adults: a review of qualitative studies. Health Education Research, 21(6), 826-835. DOI: 10.1093/her/cyl063.
  • Biddle, S. & Asare, M. 2011. Physical activity and mental health in children and adolescents: a review of reviews. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 45, 886–895. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2011-090185.
  • Bouaziz, W., Lang, P.O., Schmitt, E., Kaltenbach, G., Geny, B. & Vogel, T. 2016. Health benefits of multicomponent training programmes in seniors: a systematic review. International Journal of Clinical Practice, Jul; 70(7), 520–536. DOI: 10.1111/ijcp.12822.
  • Burt, L.A., Greene, D.A., Ducher, G. & Naughton, G.A. 2013. Skeletal adaptations associated with pre-pubertal gym-nastics participation as determined by DXA and pQCT: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 16, 231–239. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2012.07.006.
  • Gomez-Bruton, A., Montero-Marín, J., González-Aqüero, A., García-Campayo, J., Moreno, L.A., Casjus, J.A. & Vicen-te-Rodríguez, G. 2016. The Effect of Swimming During Childhood and Adolescence on Bone Mineral Density: A Sys-tematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 46, 365–379. DOI: 10.1007/s40279-015-0427-3.
  • Eime, R.M., Young, J.A., Harvey, J.T., Charity, M.J. & Payne, W.R. 2013a. A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10(98). http://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1479-5868-10-98.
  • Eime, R.M., Young, J.A., Harvey, J.T., Charity, M.J. & Payne, W.R. 2013b. A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for adults: informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10 (135). DOI: 10.1186/1479-5868-10-135.
  • Janssen, I., & LeBlanc, A.G. 2010. Systematic review of the health benefits of physical activity and fitness in school-aged children and youth. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, May;7(40). DOI: 10.1186/1479-5868-7-40.
  • Okely, A.D., Salmon, J., Vella, S.A., et al. 2012. A Systematic Review to update the Australian Physical Activity Guide-lines for Children and Young People. Report prepared for the Australian Government Department of Health. Canber-ra: Commonwealth of Australia.
  • Smith, J.J., Eather, N., Morgan, P.J., Plotnikoff, R.C., Faigenbaum, A.D. & Lubans, D.R. 2014. The Health Benefits of Muscular Fitness for Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 44, 1209–1223. DOI: 10.1007/s40279-014-0196-4.
  • St George, A., Kite, J., Hector, D., Pedisic, Z., Bellew,B. & Bauman, A. 2014. The Healthy Eating and Active Living Strategy – Additional Health Benefits: an Evidence Check brokered by The Sax Institute (www.saxinstitute.org.au) for the NSW Ministry of Health.
  • Tsang, T.W.M., Kohn, M., Chow, C.M. & Singh. M.F. 2008. Health benefits of Kung Fu: A systematic review, Journal of Sports Sciences, 26(12), 1249-1267, DOI: 10.1080/02640410802155146.

Table 1 health outcomes