Exercise, play and sport as well as sports club membership increase the mental health of young people


MOVE FOR HEALTH research project (2023) provides evidence of the positive potential of sport for children and young people to grow up healthy

German Sports Youth has presented the research results of the MOVE FOR HEALTH research project (2023), which was carried out as part of the MOVE campaign. The results on mental health in children’s and youth sport are trend-setting for organized sport in both Germany and Europe and relevant to social policy, as they have been providing long overdue insights into the contribution and potential of sports clubs as well as exercise, games and sport for children and young people to grow up healthy. The last representative children’s and youth sports study in Germany (MediKuS) was carried out almost 12 years ago, meaning that no current data was available. 


“The study underlines what we have known for a long time in the practice of children’s and youth sport,” says Luca Wernert, board member of the dsj and committee member of ENGSO Youth. “A logical consequence of the results is to invest more and more in children and youth work in sport. More intensive promotion of children’s and youth sport on a grassroot level therefore also means providing even more support for children and young people to grow up healthy.”

Young people who are more active in sport are less likely to suffer from worries, stress or fatigue

Young people in Germany who are more active in sport are less likely to be in poor health and are generally less likely to suffer from worries, stress or fatigue than non-active people. In addition, more physically active children and adolescents are more often satisfied with their lives than non-active ones. The health characteristics of young people were correlated with regular physical activity and sports club membership as well as the family’s financial situation. 

Sports club membership is associated with higher life satisfaction

Membership in a sports club is also positively associated with young people’s state of health. It was found that club members are less likely to experience stress, feelings of fatigue or worry and have a higher level of life satisfaction than non-members. In addition, questions were asked about the motives for playing sport. The most important motive for young people to play sport is “having fun”, directly followed by “staying fit” and “balance and relaxation”. 

Parents of inactive children see the lack of opportunities as a problem

Around half of the parents of physically inactive children surveyed stated that they had not found any activities for their children in their area that would arouse their children’s interest. This indicates that further and additional resources are needed to anchor sporting activity in the living environment of children and young people.

Social inequality is a decisive factor for sporting engagement

Only 43% of young people from families with social benefits are physically active, while 63% of young people from stable financial backgrounds exercise regularly. 14% of those surveyed even stated that there was no money available in their household to take up a sporting activity. Poverty and social living conditions are decisive factors when it comes to daily exercise and participation in sports clubs. 

The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Social Affairs, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) has funded the dsj’s overall campaign “MOVE FOR HEALTH” with 2.5 million euros until the end of 2023 through the “Future Package for Physical Activity, Culture and Health” program. The research project was one of three campaign modules developed by the dsj research network with the support of Humboldt University Berlin, Leuphana University Lüneburg, the German Sport University Cologne, the University of Paderborn, the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences under the project management of Dr. Dennis Dreiskämper, Institute for Sports Science at the University of Münster. 

Consisting of five sub-projects, a joint project with six universities was designed, which dealt with the following topics:  


1) psycho-social health of children and adolescents and the potential of exercise, play and sport;

2) the sports club as an attractive living environment for children and young people growing up 

3) socially disadvantaged and non-sporting groups: Challenges and conditions for success in sport  


The three subject areas were addressed both quantitatively (in the form of a representative nationwide survey) and qualitatively (through in-depth studies in specific areas). The survey took place in July and August 2023 in over 4,000 households, with parents of 2,112 children between the ages of 5 and 12, parents of 1,978 young people aged 13 to 17 and the young people themselves being interviewed. 


All information on the MOVE campaign can be found at www.move-sport.de.

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