Physical activity and mental health: The psychological effect of martial arts training

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Mental health is a significant issue producing broad consequences, ranging from personal distress and disability to wider social and economic impacts. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated the annual global cost of mental health issues was $USD 2.5 trillion in 2010 (WHO 2016); and the annual cost of mental illness in Australia has been estimated at $AUD 60 billion (Australian Government, 2016). These costs are projected to increase 240% by 2030 (WHO 2016). The idea that physical activity promotes mental health is not new. For example, the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates recommended physical activity for the treatment of mental illness (Dishman, 2005). However, while it is generally accepted that physical activity can have important psychological benefits (Biddle, 2005) there is insufficient empirical support (Lam, 2016), existing evidence has significant methodological problems (Faulkner & Taylor, 2005) and the mechanisms underpinning the relationship are not well understood (Lam, 2016). These issues are highly applicable to research examining martial arts training. Paradoxically, popular culture often views martial arts training as an activity that promotes psychological benefits such as increased well-being, self-esteem and confidence (Vertonghen, & Theeboom, 2010), while concurrently viewing martial arts in extremely violent terms. Limited research has examined both views. This presentation will discuss meta-analytic data examining the psychological outcomes of martial arts training. Results from this study support martial arts training as an efficacious sports-based psychosocial intervention for improving wellbeing and reducing symptoms associated with mental health issues. These results were part of a broader study examining the psychological effects of martial arts training on secondary school students. This study considered a 10-week martial arts based psychosocial intervention which was assessed using a randomised controlled trial of 283 participants. The results support the efficacy of martial arts based interventions to improve factors associated with wellbeing, including resilience and self-efficacy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 04 Nov 2020
EventThe King’s Institute 2020 Research Symposium - The King's School, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 04 Nov 202004 Nov 2020


SeminarThe King’s Institute 2020 Research Symposium
OtherOn Wednesday evening, The King’s Institute held the 2020 Research Symposium at The King’s School. An intimate gathering came together to celebrate our colleagues and peers, in which 15 presenters provided a lightning 5-minute talk on their recently published works and discussed their paper’s implications for schools and learning environments. We were left inspired and energised, looking back at our recent accomplishments, despite all of the uncertainty that 2020 has provided.
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