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Impact of Sports and Physical Exercise on Adolescent Self-Esteem


Physical activity plays a vital role in human life as it promotes the acquisition of the necessary knowledge, healthy habits, and the prediction of weight-related problems. Many current researchers support physical activity engagement from a young age, preferably childhood and adolescence, as this period is associated with physical and psychological development and an understanding of well-being and appropriate behaviors (Andrade et al., 2020; Cocca et al., 2020; Laudańska-Krzemińska et al., 2020).

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The prevalence of mental health disorders among youth reaches about 20% of the population, which makes sports and physical exercises essential factors in preventing diseases related to low self-esteem and providing certain benefits (Fernández-Bustos et al., 2019). If there is a chance to improve self-esteem in adolescents, it has to be used and properly explained. This literature review aims at analyzing recent experimental studies to define the connection between sports and self-esteem and developing strategies to increase physical activities among teens.

Reasons for Sports and Physical Activities

There are many reasons people can use to clarify their intention for physical activity and sports in life. According to Fernández-Bustos et al. (2019), many males are eager to follow various aesthetic models for driving muscularity and avoiding obesity-related problems. When a person looks good, there are higher chances of feeling confident in every activity and decision. In the experiment by Laudańska-Krzemińska et al. (2020), adolescents determine body satisfaction with such measurements as height, weight, and shape. One of the main causes to start physical activity is to gain control over their weight and achieve the desired outcomes.

Andrade et al. (2020) use mood as a critical variable in sports performance and education. Emotional lifts are not easy to control in adolescence, and young people like to rely on different sources with professional help. Visits to gyms present a good opportunity to organize daily routines, find new friends, and share common themes for discussion. As cited in Fernández-Bustos et al. (2019), physical activity results in reducing depression and anxiety and stabilizing executive function. Sport is not only the solution for obesity but other health conditions like stroke, hypertension, and arthritis.

Importance of Self-Esteem in Adolescents

The psychological aspect of this review includes self-esteem and mental well-being in adolescent development. Self-esteem is a crucial quality of humans for their personal development. It means the possibility to make judgments, introduce subjective opinions, and demonstrate confidence in actions. Many children and adolescents are at risk of having low self-esteem because of wrongly defined self-worth, poor relationships with family or peers, and other negative thoughts (Cocca et al., 2020; Laudańska-Krzemińska et al., 2020).

In their study, Sani et al. (2016) admit that self-esteem contributes to a satisfying life and the psychological growth of children and adolescents. Self-esteem improvement at a young age turns out to be one of the primary goals for parents, caregivers, and educators. Many studies are developed to understand what changes may have a positive or negative outcome on adolescents’ mental well-being (Andrade et al., 2020; Laudańska-Krzemińska et al., 2020; Sani et al., 2016). Instead of choosing pharmacological interventions, people decide to use behavioral or physical therapies. The relationship between physical activity and self-esteem usually depends on many factors that have to be identified in this review.

Sport-Self-Esteem Relationship

Today, children and young people get access to a variety of options in sports and physical activity. They can rely on their personal interests, physiological or health needs, and even trend concepts to make a final choice. Sometimes, adolescents want to know the opinion of their parents or educators. For example, girls consider the recommendations of their families, friends, and social media users about an appropriate body image and believe that thinness is preferable (Laudańska-Krzemińska et al., 2020). However, such dependence on public opinion is a sign of low self-esteem and the impossibility of making independent decisions.

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Multiple experiments and studies are conducted to improve self-esteem through sports and physical activity. For example, Andrade et al. (2020) offered a cluster-randomized natural experiment to compare the effects of exergaming and regular physical education on mood states and self-esteem in particular and proved the effectiveness of both approaches. A quasi-experimental design was implemented in Cocca et al.’s study (2020) to examine the psychological health of students who participate in physical fitness programs from an early age.

The Polish experiment underlined the protective role of physical activity among adolescents and their body perception (Laudańska-Krzemińska et al., 2020). Despite some limitations in the studies, each project shows that self-esteem is directly related to sports and physical activity in case it is promoted regularly and under professional supervision.


People want to believe that their attitudes and decisions are properly developed and enhance their well-being. However, when an adolescent is involved in public relationships, it is not always easy to be confident in each step and intention. Therefore, low self-esteem, poor judgments, and problematic relationships challenge the population. Among a variety of options to improve self-esteem, attention is paid to the worth of physical activity and sports in human life.

Young people should take care of their physical and mental health and predict the possibility of psychological problems. The relation between sports and self-esteem is characterized by additional motivation, time management, and decision-making. Adolescents have a number of problems to solve in their family, peer, and academic life, and the challenge of low self-esteem may be overcome by means of sports.


Andrade, A., Cruz, W. M. D., Correia, C. K., Santos, A. L. G., & Bevilacqua, G. G. (2020). Effect of practice exergames on the mood states and self-esteem of elementary school boys and girls during physical education classes: A cluster-randomized controlled natural experiment. PLoS One, 15(6). Web.

Cocca, A., Espino Verdugo, F., Ródenas Cuenca, L. T., & Cocca, M. (2020). Effect of a game-based physical education program on physical fitness and mental health in elementary school children. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(13). Web.

Fernández-Bustos, J. G., Infantes-Paniagua, Á., Cuevas, R., & Contreras, O. R. (2019). Effect of physical activity on self-concept: Theoretical model on the mediation of body image and physical self-concept in adolescents. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. Web.

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Laudańska-Krzemińska, I., Krzysztoszek, J., Naczk, M., & Gajewska, E. (2020). Physical activity, physical fitness and the sense of coherence – Their role in body acceptance among Polish adolescents. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(16). Web.

Sani, S. H. Z., Fathirezaie, Z., Brand, S., Pühse, U., Holsboer-Trachsler, E., Gerber, M., & Talepasand, S. (2016). Physical activity and self-esteem: testing direct and indirect relationships associated with psychological and physical mechanisms. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 12, 2617-2625. Web.

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