Wednesday 22 September is National Fitness Day [1]. National Fitness Day raises awareness of the importance of exercise. At a time when anxiety and mental health problems have increased in young people, because of the pandemic [2], getting active has never been more important. 

Why exercise is good for you 

The health benefits are widely known. For instance, the British Heart Foundation say that being active reduces risk of some heart and circulatory diseases by as much as 35% [3]. But there is a growing conversation about the importance of exercise on people’s mental health and even on academic performance.  

In short, exercise boosts the growth and maintenance of brain cells and blood vessels. This has a positive effect on mood, memory and thinking [4].  It’s probably why one study found a link between exercise and improved self-image in young students [5], while another found that lower body mass index scores were linked to higher academic scores [6].   

Improved mood and self-image can only be positive when it comes to how people behave. Research from Sport England shows that children who have what they call ‘physically literacy’ (enjoyment, confidence, competence, understanding and knowledge) are not only more active but report higher levels of happiness and are more trusting of other children [7]. 

Getting active 

But this idea of ‘physical literacy’ is interesting. It suggests it’s not enough to just ask young people to get active. They need opportunities that give them a sense of purpose, so that clear goals can be achieved, and build confidence through a better understanding of their world and of themselves.  It’s about finding the right activity for the right person, whether that’s sport, dance, walking or even through active play.        









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