To be healthy is not just about ridding yourself of disease but it is also about being in a state of complete physical, mental and social well being (Edwards, Edwards & Basson, 2004).. Recently positive mental health has been studied in much depth and wellbeing is now being acknowledged as extremely important for every athlete. Rhff (1989) developed a scale of wellbeing which has 6 dimensions: self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life and personal growth. Ryff (1989) argued that wellbeing is developed through a combination of emotional regulation, personality characteristics, identity and life experience, education, extraversion and increases with age. Each dimenision of the wellbeing scale can be seen as a form of life challenge: “self-acceptance of personal strengths and limitations, developing and maintaining positive relations with others, mastering the environment so as to meet needs and desires, seeking autonomy through self-determination and personal authority, finding personal meaning through purpose in life and optimizing unique abilities and talents through personal growth” (Edwards, Edwards & Basson, p.26, 2012).

Various research has shown that psychological well being and physical self esteem are promoted by regular exercise, which occurs for between twenty and thirty minutes a day at least three times a week. Research found that health club members who exercised regularly were more psychologically well than people who did not exercise on a regular basis.  It has been found that sports such as swimming, yoga and fencing all improve psychological wellbeing.  Krawczinski and Olszewski (2000) conducted a longitudinal study looking at how a physical activity programme influenced the psychological well being of people over sixty years of age. From a psychological perspective it has been found that exercise improves wellbeing by enhancing feelings of control, self-esteem and self-efficacy. As well as this it has been found that exercise leads to more positive social interactions and this can directly relate to one of the six dimensions of well being (positive relations with others).  Exercise does not always have to be on your own and by joining in with groups you are more likely to have more interaction, which could lead to positive relations. Exercise has also been found to improve a number of different aspects ranging from academic performance, assertiveness, memory, perception, body image and work errors (Edwards, Edwards & Basson, 2004). The changes which occur physically from exercise will also have an impact on a persons physical self perception. By exercising you are more likely to improve your body image which will in turn lead to improved autonomy, body control, competence and appearance (Edwards, Edwards & Basson, 2004).

Through exercise you are working on improving all of the six dimensions of well-being. Exercise can improve self acceptance by giving an individual a more positive view about themselves. By exercising you are improving your health and body image and therefore will start to have a more positive attitude. Exercise can improve your autonomy by making you feel as though as you have more confidence in decisions in which you make. As we have mentioned exercise leads to more positive social interactions which in turn related to your positive relations with others. Through exercise you can develop environmental mastery by feeling as though you are in charge of the situations in which you live. Finally exercise can improve your personal growth and purpose in life by giving you more new challenges and making you feel as though you have an aim in life.

Written by Adam Morris

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