Issue addressed: The mental health benefit of participation in organised physical recreation is investigated as strategies aimed at enhancing mental health and well-being in the community have the potential to decrease social and economic costs.
Methods: A literature review was undertaken to explore evidence relating to the mental health benefits of participation in organised physical recreation.
Results: Regular physical activity is widely recognised as protective against the overall burden of disease. Evaluations by government departments in Australia and the United States (US) found that people who participate in sports clubs and organised recreational activity enjoy better mental health, are more alert, and more resilient against the stresses of modern living. Participation in recreational groups and socially supported physical activity is shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and reduce symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, yet more than one-third of adult Australians report no participation in sports and physical recreation. Evaluations of some programs found that physical activity is increased when the social environment is supportive and that the mental and physical benefits of participating in organised recreational activity can be experienced by people other than those directly involved with the sport or activity.
Conclusion: This review supports the development and maintenance of organised sport and recreational activities that are socially and culturally appropriate. An increase in valid and reliable evaluations of sport and physical recreation programs would contribute to the international body of evidence of the mental health benefits of organised physical recreation.