The Impact of Sport and Physical Activity on the Well-being of Combat Veterans: A Systematic Review

January, 2014

A systematic review of the current research literature which examines how sport and physical activity can impact the well-being of veterans.


Objectives: This review examined the potential impact of sport and physical activity upon the subjective and psychological well-being of combat veterans in the aftermath of physical or psychological combat trauma. Design: A systematic review was conducted. The question guiding this review was 'what is the impact of sport and physical activity on the well-being of combat veterans?' Methods: Key databases were searched for articles relating to the use of sport and/or physical activity in supporting combat veterans. 11 studies were identified as relevant for inclusion. Data from these studies were extracted by means of a directed content analysis, the results of which were reported in a narrative synthesis. Results: Sport and physical activity enhances subjective well-being in veterans through active coping and doing things again, PTSD symptom reduction, positive affective experience, activity in nature / ecotherapy, and quality of life. Impact on psychological well-being includes determination and inner strength, focus on ability and broadening of horizons, identity and self-concept, activity in nature/ecotherapy, sense of achievement/accomplishment, and social well-being. Participating in sport and/or physical activity can also enhance motivation for living. Conclusions: The review advances knowledge by producing a synthesis of evidence that highlights the value of sport and physical activity for supporting the well-being and rehabilitation of disabled combat veterans and combat veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It also develops knowledge by identifying the type of sports and physical activities used to promote well-being, offering the first definition of combat veterans in the sport literature, taking a critical approach, and highlighting the under researched role of nature-based physical activity.

Full Reference

Caddick N, Smith B. The impact of sport and physical activity on the well-being of combat veterans: a systematic review. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 2014; 15(1): 9-18.

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