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There are many ways in which football can help mental health, listed below are the benefits and info about how they help…..


How is playing football good for your health?
Everyone is on the spectrum of physical and mental health with certain things triggering problems or an imbalance in one or both of these areas.

Happier and relaxed…
Playing football, or being actively involved in other types of sporting activity, promotes mental health through triggering chemicals that can make you feel happier and relaxed. Football being a team sport is particularly beneficial as it not only promotes fitness but also offers social benefits through allowing you to connect with others that have similar interests.

Human beings are said to have three basic psychological needs.

Competence – the perception that you have the ability to do something i.e. play football
Relatedness – the sense of feeling like you belong (being around people similar to yourself)
Autonomy – feeling you have control and can make your own decisions and choices

Meeting these needs promotes healthy mental and physical well-being. The more successful we are in what we do builds our perception of competence, the more connected we feel to others in regards to our similarities, increases our sense of relatedness, and the more we make choices to engage in activities that interest us promotes our feeling of autonomy.

Concentration and decision making…
A game like football can also help improve your mental skills like concentration, decision making – it’s a game that requires you to think throughout stimulating brain activity which in turn has mental health benefits.
Having to concentrate also makes it so you aren’t thinking about the other stresses and anxieties going on in your life and so it gives rest bite from it no matter how short or long it is.

Stress release…
Football as a means of physical activity can also act as a distractor/release from daily stresses. It can help reduce the level of stress hormones in your body and stimulate the production of mood enhancing hormones – these natural mood lifters can also help in feeling more relaxed and positive when they are boosted after a game.

Sleep quality…
Football can be hard work, it can tire you out (depending how hard you work of course) this in turn will help improve quality of sleep, helping you fall asleep faster and into a deeper sleep. A good sleep helps improve your outlook on the day ahead and boosts your mood.
Caution: Try not to exercise too late as it might leave you too energized to sleep.


Several trials and large-scale systematic reviews have demonstrated that exercise is an effective ‘tool’ in the prevention and management of depressive symptoms. Most studies report beneficial effects of physical activity upon multiple mental health difficulties including anxiety, depression and schizophrenia, with a small to moderate effect size for improvements in aspects of physical well-being, such as improved cardiorespiratory fitness and reduced risk of development of cardiovascular disease.

Sport can help in people’s recovery, help to mange symptoms and can radically improve the quality of people’s lives. Whether it’s in mainstream, community football clubs, or in specialised sport and mental health projects, football can deliver massive benefits. There are three key ways that football can help:

  • Delivering social inclusion
  • Helping physical health
  • Improving people’s mental health

For some people, physical activity can be as powerful as medicine or therapy. In 2010 the Mental Health Foundation said that for people with depression, “Comparative studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as medication or psychotherapy”. Exercise releases natural chemicals like adrenaline and serotonin. It also helps to release muscle tension, raises the body temperature and causes tiredness. These all help relieve stress and provide relaxation – this is of particular benefit for people with mental health problems.

Studies have shown that moderate depression responds to exercise equally as well as anti-depressant drugs. The obvious advantage of using exercise is that playing football for an hour or two doesn’t bring on any unwanted side-effects.

A study at Harvard University revealed that running for just 15 minutes per day reduces the risk of serious depression by 26%. The study also revealed that keeping to a regime of regular exercise can stop recoverees from relapsing.

Exercise releases endorphins and other mood-boosting chemicals inside the brain. A combination of neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns lifts our mood. This is why some people report feelings of euphoria during rigorous exercise.

The recent pandemic has increased the stress and anxiety people face every day. Dwelling on economic, familial and social problems often exacerbates mental health issues. But playing football regularly offers a little escapism. Meeting with other people who are going through the same issues can put things in perspective. And being distracted for a few hours on a football pitch is a great way to leave life’s problems behind.

There is clear evidence that regular exercise promotes good mental health. Combine this with the teamwork and social aspect of grassroots football, and you have a powerful weapon in the fight against depression, anxiety, stress and low self-esteem.

It has been shown that physical activity alleviates symptoms of depression as effectively as prescribed medication — without any of the side-effects. Regular exercise also plays a role in the treatment of severe, chronic mental health issues such as depression and schizophrenia.


Individuals who participated in the programme reported psychosocial and physical benefits, such as improved physical and mental health, improved social confidence and having a sense of purpose added to their day-to-day living.

Many players attributed improvements in stress levels and anxiety to participating in sessions:

“I think when you have the adrenalin pumping it kind of flushes out any kind of negative emotions and stuff you have, almost like you kind of sweat it out.  Go home in the evening and feel much more relaxed. It would be great to do it every day.” 

Being part of the programme enabled people to make social contacts that previously they had struggled with. Football was instrumental in providing a common interest for players and coaches, with a sense of making a connection through sport:

“You talk about what has happened on the field. That is what the ice-breaker is. I think that is where people gain their confidence then to talk to new people.”

One of the key issues that contributed to the success of the programme was the enthusiasm and commitment of the coaches, especially those who were volunteers. The participants recognised that the dedication of their coaches acted as a motivating factor for many of them to commit to the programme.

This experience and knowledge also contributed to creating a positive, inclusive environment for the players. For example, the programme was initially designed to be ‘non-competitive’ but the coaches recognised that this might not attract players: “It is competitive but in a good way.”


Social interaction is good for your brain health. Promotes a sense of safety, belonging and security. Allows you to confide in others and let them confide in you.

If this past year has taught us anything, it’s the importance of community spirit and togetherness. Millions of people have been cut off from their own communities for months, so a sense of perspective has been developed across the world. We all need emotional connections… something to bring us together. And for millions around the world, that something is football.

A recent study revealed that players and coaches are brought together by football from all walks of life. The beautiful game is the common bond — and the catalyst for productive social connections. These new-found relationships empower people to improve various aspects of their life, whether it’s at home or in the workplace.

During the current pandemic, football — when it can be played — is forging community spirit. Grassroots clubs are often the heart of local towns and villages. They don’t just compete, they help the less fortunate. And this instils a sense of achievement for everyone concerned.

Through regular and organised kick abouts friendships and connections can be made so not only can you enjoy the kick abouts even more but the friendships could lead to more outside of the sessions which would further help mental health.


Studies show that levels of anxiety, stress, and others are reduced by being outdoors. When you are outside, the fresh air can help raise oxygen levels in your brain, which increases serotonin levels. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that alters your mood. Getting some fresh air is a simple way to improve your mood!


We often hear about the risks of getting too much sun. While it’s true that sunburns and skin cancer are very real threats and that SPF is essential, there are also positive effects of sun exposure. The sun is much more than its potential pitfalls and can do plenty of good things for your body — soaking up some sunlight can do wonders for your mind, bones, and more.
When you give your skin access to a healthy dose of the sun’s rays, you are likely to experience some tangible benefits immediately. Here are five ways the sun can affect your mental and physical health.

1. Increased Vitamin D
Vitamin D has some important functions in the body. It promotes reduced inflammation and modulates cell growth. It’s also very hard to get enough from food sources alone. The sun is the best natural source of Vitamin D, and it only takes 5-15 minutes of sunlight a few times a week to notice a difference. Get outside and expose yourself to direct sun on your arms and face to soak up this necessary vitamin. Just remember to use sunscreen if you’ll be outside for more than 15 minutes.

2. Improved Mood
It turns out “sunny disposition” is more than just an expression: Researchers at BYU found more mental health distress in people during seasons with little sun exposure. On the contrary, days with plenty of sunshine were associated with better mental health — in fact, the availability of sunshine has more impact on mood than rainfall, temperature, or any other environmental factor.
Getting some sun increases your serotonin and helps you stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and sun exposure can also help people with anxiety and depression, especially in combination with other treatments.

3. Higher Quality Sleep
That serotonin you soak up from the sun’s rays does more than boost your mood – it might also help you get more restful sleep at night. Working in tandem with serotonin is melatonin, a chemical in your brain that lulls you into slumber and one that sun also helps your body produce. Suffering from insomnia? Try to stick to traditionally light and dark cycles, getting sunlight during the day so you can catch some zzz’s at night.

4. Stronger Bones
Remember how we mentioned Vitamin D does some pretty important stuff for your body? Low Vitamin D has been linked to diseases like osteoporosis and rickets, and one of the most specific benefits of Vitamin D is earning stronger bones and teeth. Move over, calcium!
How much Vitamin D do you need? For adults, a daily intake of 4,000 international units (or IUs) is recommended. While calcium intake is also crucial for bone health, getting enough sun helps your body absorb the calcium.

5. Lower Blood Pressure
When sunlight hits your skin, your body releases something called nitric oxide into your blood. This compound brings down blood pressure and improves heart health. Maintaining healthy blood pressure can reduce your risks of cardiac disease and stroke. Feelings of relaxation may also naturally bring down blood pressure, so boosting your happiness by soaking up rays also aids in keeping your pressure down.
The sun can be your body’s best friend. It not only boosts your mood and can be an effective part of treatment for depression and SAD, but its rays have tangible benefits for our physical well-being. Stuck under cloudy conditions for a week or more? Consider a light therapy lamp, which can be installed in any room and provide a temporary alternative to the sun.
As always, use proper precautions and make sure to visit your doctor for regular skin examinations to be sure you’re not at risk for skin cancer.


Football is such a cheap and easily accessible sport that is loved by millions in the UK, you only need the right footwear and a ball and you’re off.
It helps to have a pitch and goals but they aren’t needed, suitable clothing and shoes and you’re ready to go no matter what age, fitness level or income.
Due to the above plus the mental health benefits it seems like such a perfect match to try and get as many people out to reap the benefits.

The NHS spends millions on treatment programmes for depression and chronic mental health problems. Much of this money is spent on prescription drugs from abroad. Are we missing out on a fantastic opportunity?

The people behind this recent study have suggested that there should be a more structured approach that involves collaboration between mental health service providers, football authorities, clubs, players, and coaches. They also suggest that professional clubs should play an active role in initiatives that use football to fight the mental health crisis.

Football-based programmes aren’t cheap, but they’re cost-effective. Billions are spent on drugs for mental health ailments every year. For just a fraction of that cost, footballing programmes that target vulnerable people can deliver similar results. It’s time to invest in Britain’s national game — for the health of the nation.