A systematic review of the impact of physical activity programmes on social and emotional well-being in at-risk youth

Read the full review here

It is difficult to determine the efficacy of physical activity programmes for improving social and emotional well being in at-risk youth.

Physical activity programmes have been identified as a potential strategy for improving social and emotional well-being in at-risk youth, who have a prevalence of depression and low self-esteem exceeding the general population. This review could not determine the efficacy of physical activity programmes for improving social and emotional well-being in at risk youth, due to the mixed findings and the high risk of bias.

Key Practitioner messages:

  • Physical activity programmes have the potential to improve social and emotional well-being in at-risk youth, but more rigorous trials are needed to evaluate their effectiveness.
  • As none of the studies included long-term follow-ups (i.e. >12 months), it remains untested whether the benefits associated with participation in physical activity programmes are sustained once youth return to their daily routines.
  • The quality of existing studies is poor and has not improved since earlier reviews.
  • Physiological and psychosocial factors may explain the beneficial effects of physical activity programmes on social and emotional well-being in at-risk youth.
  • Clinicians working with at-risk youth are encouraged to consider specific physical activity programmes to support social and emotional well-being and general health in this group.
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