The Background

The WHO states that about a quarter of the global population suffer from mental health issues at some time in life.In many Western countries, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability, responsible for 30-40% of chronic sick leave and costing some 3% of GDP.

According to a systematic review of data and statistics from community studies in European Union (EU) countries, 27% of the adult population (aged 18–65) had experienced at least one of a series of mental disorders in the past year – with an estimated 83 million people being affected.

Despite these figures, less than 10% of people with mental disorders have access to adequate treatment, due to a lack of appropriate facilities and policies, and because they are often ashamed to admit they have a psychiatric problem. Moreover, the protection of mental health and the prevention of chronic diseases represent a marginal share in the budget of nations’ health systems.

Over the last few decades, several scientific studies have shown how sport and physical activity improve the psychophysical wellbeing of people with mental health problems. Sport and physical activity act as a real therapy – complementary to psychiatric drugs – and play an important role in preventing mental illness and enhancing the quality of life of those living with these problems.

Sports and their training methods are very close to the psychiatric rehabilitation because they include many therapeutic values: they are easily accessible, stimulate self-confidence, self-esteem and self-awareness, and encourages socialisation and belonging to a group.