Exercise improves child and adult well-being

How physical activity can improve children's and adult's psychological well-being has been explored at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Glasgow. The session was convened by Dr Gavin Breslin of The University of Ulster’s Sport and Exercise Science Research Institute, Northern Ireland.

Papers included:

In 'Do active children feel better?' Dr Breslin and Donncha Hannah from Queen's University Belfast found that 1,424 children aged nine-11 who undertook the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity were more likely to have higher rates of well-being.

In 'Applying social cognitive theory to a 12-week physical activity intervention for primary school children in Northern Ireland', Dr Breslin and colleagues from the University of Ulster discussed the 'Sport for Life' programme that targeted 3,000 school children aged eight to nine from deprived areas in Northern Ireland. The programme split the children in to two groups: a group who received a 12-week physical activity and healthy eating intervention and a control. The results showed at baseline there were no differences between the two groups on physical activity, however after the programme the intervention group (57 minutes a day of activity) were more moderately and vigorously active than the control group (35 minutes).

In 'Psychological impact of aerobic exercise: A mixed method evaluation' weekly aerobic sessions for adults were shown to help reduce stress and increase positivity. Professor Anthony Cassidy (University of Ulster) recruited 50 people to take part in aerobic classes and measured their feelings of stress, optimism/pessimism and belief in themselves.

Dr Breslin said: "Many of us are aware that physical activity and exercise is good for our health, but the psychological challenge is in encouraging individuals to make active decisions to change their behaviour. Getting people to do more than just understand the benefits of physical activity and to act on this is the most challenging part of promoting a healthy lifestyle."