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A systematic review of sport and dance participation in healthy young people (15-24 years) to promote subjective wellbeing

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posted on 2023-07-26, 16:56 authored by Tess Kay, Catherine Meads, Alistair John, Norma Daykin, Lily Grigsby-Duffy, Jack Lane, Paul Dolan, Stefano Testoni, Guy Julier, Annette Payne, Alan Tomlinson, Christina Victor
We know that taking part in physical activity like sport and dance can bring wellbeing benefits, such as being more satisfied with life and happier, and feeling less anxious and depressed. Most of the evidence is however about adults. This review was carried out to investigate the relationships between subjective wellbeing (SWB) and taking part in sport and dance for healthy young people (15-24 years). Healthy people were defined as those without a condition diagnosed by a health professional. SWB describes wellbeing in terms of the good and bad feelings arising from what people do and how they think. The focus of this review was agreed through on-going collaborative engagement with UK-wide stakeholders representing policy, commissioning and managing, service delivery, and scholars from both academic and non-academic organisations. We examined studies from the past 10 years and found that there is limited good quality evidence, and very little conducted in the UK. The review includes published findings from 977 participants across six countries - China, Korea, India, Turkey, Sweden and the USA. In some studies, participants were predominantly female. A wide variety of wellbeing measures were used. The most common form of sport/dance related activity was based on meditative practices (yoga and Baduanjin Qigong). Other physical activities reported included body conditioning, aerobic exercise, dance training, hip hop dance and sports including volleyball, ice skating, Nintendo Wii Active Games. We included evidence from recent unpublished reports (grey literature) produced by or for sport and dance organisations since 2013. Participants in the evaluations were both male and female with a mean age between 13-24 years and were engaged in UK-based programmes of sport and dance. Findings illustrate that depending on activity type and delivery mode, taking part is associated with wellbeing improvements connected to social connectedness, pleasure, sense of purpose, confidence, interpersonal skills, happiness, relaxation, creative skills and expression, aspiration and ambition. Taking part was also associated with negative wellbeing connected to concerns about competency and capability. Overall, the evidence available in this review suggests that yoga-type activities have the potential to improve subjective wellbeing and that group-based and peer supported sport and dance programmes may promote wellbeing enhancement in youth groups. The evidence in this review provides limited promising findings upon which sport and dance programmes for wellbeing improvement could be developed. The lack of evidence identified in this review does not necessarily mean that wellbeing benefits are not accrued from taking part in sport and dance. There is scope to build evidence on wellbeing outcomes of sport and dance in healthy young people through well-designed, rigorous and appropriate research methods which are underpinned by relevant theory and use established methods of analysis.


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What Works Centre for Wellbeing

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London, UK


Brunel University

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  • Published version


  • eng

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  • Project Report

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ARCHIVED Faculty of Health, Social Care & Education (until September 2018)

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