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How sport affects mental health

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Für den BCB bringt Savage nun sein Barkonzept mit und mixt für uns mit Unterstützung von Russian Standard Vodka an der perfekten Bar dazu.





Mental health concerns us all and is essential alongside physical health. And yet the topic is stigmatised and, above all, not yet sufficiently understood by the general population. Why there is an urgent need for education and what role sport plays in mental health.

Almost every third person in Germany suffers from a mental illness in the course of their life. Especially in the dark season, many people struggle with depressive moods, fatigue and demotivation. In such phases, it is all the more important to have suitable tools at hand to counteract and prevent depressive moods.

One researched and successful measure that can have a positive effect on the psyche is sport. Physical activity releases endorphins, i.e. happiness hormones, which increase well-being and reduce stress.

Sport as a tool for mental health

During training, the body learns to cope with the exposed - positive - stress. It can then apply this acquired resilience to other situations. According to a long-term Norwegian study from 2017, which researched the effects of sporting activity on the development of depression in a wide variety of people, regular sporting activity reduces the likelihood of developing depression.

"12 per cent of future cases of depression could have been prevented if all participants had been physically active for at least one hour per week," it concluded. Another study with chronically ill patients from 2009 also reported positive effects of exercise on anxiety. The best results were achieved when the exercise programme lasted at least 30 minutes over a period of three to twelve weeks.

What moves within the body

Sport therefore has a direct impact on our mental state through the neurobiological and neuro-endocrinological changes that are set in motion. Prof. Johannes Scherr, MD, Chief Physician of Sports Medicine at Balgrist University Hospital, and Malte C. Claussen, MD, President of the Swiss Society for Sports Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, write in an article on sport and mental state:

"Moderate physical training has an influence on the secretion of glucocorticoids such as cortisol, which is elevated in stress and depression, for example.  This is usually experienced positively by many people and used to reduce stress."

They further highlight, "In addition, the potential effects of physical activity on neurotransmitters such as serotonin or norepinephrine have already been used as an additional extension of treatment options in depressed people. Sport and exercise therapy is already [...] listed as an additional treatment method."

Tools and measures

In addition to physical activity, other factors also influence mental well-being. A nutritious diet and regular meals, enough sunlight, social contacts, fresh air and, if necessary, nutritional supplements are among them.

It often helps, for example, to postpone jogging in the evening in summer to lunchtime in winter to get more sun and light.

It is also important to know that you are not alone. Sports groups or regular sports meetings can be a support to combat this together.

Raising awareness for mental health

Mental health concerns us all. For each individual, as well as for society in general, mental health is essential in addition to physical health. While physical health is generally well researched and it is recognised that we have to do something for it, mental health still needs to be educated.

This is also the aim of Mental Health Europe, or MHE for short. MHE is a European NGO (non-governmental organisation) that works for the promotion of positive mental health, the prevention of mental distress, the improvement of care, advocacy for social inclusion and the protection of the rights of (ex)users of mental health services, persons with psychosocial disabilities, their families and carers.

In doing so, the organisation works together with European institutions mainstream mental health in all policies and end mental health stigma. It is therefore crucial to promote mental health in our communities, schools, homes and workplaces.

European Mental Health Week 2023

To get closer to its goal, the MHE is calling for the fourth European Mental Health Week from 22 to 28 May this year. This year's theme is Mentally Healthy Communities. What we can do for ourselves and for our communities, and how our community can also support us to feel well and flourish in every phase of life, is shown by various projects of the MHE. www.mhe-sme.org/emhw

Depression is a serious illness. Exercise or dietary changes are no substitute for professional medical treatment. Consult your doctor if you suffer from the typical symptoms of depression.


Harvey, SB [u. a.]: Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study. Am J Psychiatry. 2018; 175: 28-36. URL: doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16111223

Herring [u. a.]: The Effect of Exercise Training on Anxiety Symptoms among Patients. A Systematic Review. Februar 2010. URL: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/774421

Claussen, Malte C. [u. a.]: Psyche und Sport in Zeiten von COVID-19. Zeitschrift Sportmedizin, Mai 2020. URL: https://www.zeitschrift-sportmedizin.de/psyche-und-sport-in-zeiten-von-covid-19/